Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maharan Radi (left) celebrates after scoring..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maharan Radi’s goal with the final kick of the match gave Hapoel Beerhsheba its first win of the Premier League season on Saturday night, a nail-biting 1-0 victory over Hapoel Ashkelon at Turner Stadium.
After only picking up a single point from its first two matches of the campaign, drawing 1-1 against Maccabi Netanya and losing 3-1 at Maccabi Haifa, Beersheba was desperate to kick-start its title defense on Saturday.
However, it seemed set to drop two more points against a battling Ashkelon, which maintained a goalless deadlock for over 90 minutes.
That wouldn’t be enough, with Radi scoring in the fifth minute of stoppage- time with an unstoppable bullet from 27 meters out.
“Our performance was still not good enough and I have a lot of work to do. But it was very important for us to win, even if we needed a bit of luck at the end,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar, whose team hosts Lugano of Switzerland in its Europa League group stage opener on Thursday. “We already began accepting that the match would end in a draw, but fortunately we have winners on this team and I think that all in all we deserved this victory.”
Beersheba is still five points off the top, with Hapoel Haifa leading the standings after extending its perfect start to the season with a 2-1 victory over Bnei Yehuda. Roslan Barsky gave Haifa the lead in the 36th minute, but Bnei Yehuda was level at the break, with Mavis Tchibota equalizing one minute from the break.
The visitors would have to manage with 10 men from the 65th minute though, with Itzik Azuz being sent off after receiving a second yellow card.
It took Haifa only three minutes to capitalize on its one-man advantage, with Eden Ben-Basat netting the winner with a back-heel.
Beitar Jerusalem will try and join Haifa on nine points when it visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.
Earlier Saturday, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 in Netanya for its second straight win.
Spanish midfielder Jose Rodriguez Martinez and Eliran Atar were both handed their debuts as substitutes, but it was Icelandic striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson who once more ensured Maccabi claimed the win.
Kjartansson, the league’s top scorer last season with 19 goals, scored four goals in Europa League qualifying action earlier this summer, with two of them being winners.
After failing to find the back of the net in his first two local league matches in 2017/18, he opened his account with a brace on Saturday, scoring in the 59th and 73rd minutes to hand Sakhnin its first defeat of the campaign.
Ashdod SC remains the only team yet to pick up a point this season, dropping to its third consecutive loss on Saturday. Ironi Kiryat Shmona claimed a 2-0 win in Ashdod for its first victory, with Shoval Gozlan (58) and Shon Weissman (78) finding the back of the net.
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa aims to build on the win against Beersheba when it goes to Hapoel Acre and Hapoel Ra’anana plays Maccabi Netanya.