Hapoel Beersheba striker Ben Sahar (kneeling) celebrates with teammates Michael Ohana (right) and Maor Melikson after scoring the opener in last night’s 2-0 home win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Turner Stadium..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba strengthened its hold on first place in the Premier League standings on Sunday night, making a statement by defeating main rival Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 at Turner Stadium.
The defending champion moved three points clear of the yellow-and-blue, while remaining two ahead of Maccabi Petah Tikva, after making the most of its opportunities.
Beersheba unsuccessfully chased Maccabi for years until it claimed its first championship since 1976 last season. Maccabi is still trying to get used to being the challenger and faces a real battle to regain the league title against the clinical Beersheba.
After going 29 league matches without defeat stretching back to last season, Maccabi dropped to its second straight loss, falling 2-0 to Maccabi Haifa last week. Tel Aviv hadn’t lost consecutive league games since the end of the 2014/15 campaign.
Beersheba won its fourth straight league contest, doing so by a combined goal difference of 12-0.
Maccabi got off to the better start on Monday and registered the first good chance of the night after 16 minutes, only for Oscar Scarione to fire straight at goalkeeper Dudu Goresh.
Midfielder Dor Micha, starting in place of winger Tal Ben-Haim who was not fully fit, was orchestrating Maccabi’s play, but the yellow-and-blue created few opportunities.
Beersheba needed only one chance to take the lead.
Michael Ohana burst forward and threaded the ball through to Maor Melikson.
Goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic halted his run, but pushed the ball right into the path of Ben Sahar who had little trouble slotting it into the empty net in the 28th minute.
The hosts immediately pushed forward in search of a second goal and came centimeters away from finding it on two occasions courtesy of Mihaly Korhut. The Hungarian defender’s shot from 20 meters out went just wide of the upright in the 31st minute, with Rajkovic coming up with an excellent save to deny Korhut a minute later.
The second half began much like the first, but yet again it would be Beersheba which did the scoring. Maor Buzaglo fired his free kick to the center of Rajkovic’s goal in the 62nd minute, with the Serbian barely having time to move, never mind save.
Earlier Sunday, Maccabi Petah Tikva occupied first place for a couple of hours thanks to a 2-1 victory over 10-man Ironi Kiryat Shmona and ended the night in second place ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Petah Tikva continued its superb start to the season with a fifth win after Guy Melamed netted a brace (61, 76). Kiryat Shmona lost Ofir Kriaf to a red card in the 34th minute, but managed to equalize through Heidor (72), only to concede a second goal four minutes later.
On Monday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Bnei Yehuda. Beitar has struggled for consistency so far this season, winning just two of seven matches.
Fans called for the head of coach Ran Ben-Shimon following last week’s 0-0 draw against rock-bottom Ashdod SC.
Bnei Yehuda has won only one match all season and will be guided by interim coach Ya’akov Asayag in league action for the first time following Arik Benado’s sacking.