Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda broke down in tears after netting his team’s second goal in last night’s win over Hapoel Kfar Saba, scoring a few hours after his grandfather’s funeral.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
A 90th-minute goal by Maor Melikson finally ended Hapoel Beersheba’s Premier League road winless streak on Saturday night, moving the reigning champion six points clear at the top of the standings with a 1-0 victory at Ashdod SC.
Beersheba was in danger of going three months without a league road win, with its gap being slashed to a mere three points by Maccabi Tel Aviv largely due to its struggles away from Turner Stadium.
Beersheba had gone five away matches without a win since defeating Beitar Jerusalem back in December and that drought seemed set to continue for most of Saturday’s game.
However, Melikson’s strike from close range finally gave Beersheba three points on the road, putting additional pressure on Maccabi Tel Aviv ahead of its visit to Hapoel Ashkelon on Sunday.
“This was our most difficult win of the season. But I really think we deserved this victory,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We didn’t register a lot of chances but the players gave their all in the second half. If we take the championship at the end of May we will look back at this win.”
The win effectively secured Beersheba first place at the end of the regular season after next week’s action, meaning it will play its next three games at Turner Stadium.
“We have 11 more league games and every one of them is going to be difficult,” added Bachar. “This victory should give us a lot of energy going forward. We have now got three home matches in a row and we need to take advantage of that.”
Elsewhere, only three teams remain alive in the battle for the final two spots for the top-six championship playoffs.
Bnei Sakhnin is on the verge of securing its place in the top six after beating Hapoel Ra’anana 1-0 on the road on Saturday. Firas Mugrabi scored the only goal of the match with an unstoppable volley in the 24th minute.
Sakhnin remained in fifth place with 38 points, three points ahead of Ironi Kiryat Shmona, which beat Hapoel Haifa 2-1 on Saturday, and six points in front of Maccabi Haifa, which visits Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.
A Shoval Gozlan brace (36, 49) gave Kiryat Shmona all three points in Haifa, with Maharan Lala netting a consolation goal for the hosts in the 90th minute.
Sakhnin will officially book its playoff berth should Maccabi Haifa (32 points) fail to win in Jerusalem on Monday, a result that will also mean Kiryat Shmona (35 points) can secure its place by beating Hapoel Kfar Saba in its final regular season match next weekend.
A Haifa victory over Beitar will mean the three-way fight won’t be decided until the end of next week’s action.
Sakhnin hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in its final regular season game, while Haifa welcomes Ra’anana.
Bnei Yehuda claimed a crucial victory in the battle against relegation on Saturday, coming back from behind to beat rock-bottom Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-1 on the road. Bnei Yehuda moved seven points clear of the relegation zone, eight ahead of Hapoel, thanks to Yonatan Cohen’s 81st-minute winner.
Omri Altman’s 17th-minute opener for Hapoel was canceled out by Pedro Galvan’s equalizer in the 49th minute.