Maccabi Tel Aviv defender Carlos Garcia (left) and Hapoel Beersheba striker Ben Sahar battle for the ball during last night’s 0-0 draw at Bloomfield Stadium..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Hapoel Beersheba remains three points clear of Maccabi Tel Aviv with three matches to play in the Premier League season after the status quo at the summit of the standings was maintained on Monday night with a 0-0 draw between the top two at Bloomfield Stadium.
Beersheba requires seven points from its remaining three matches to secure its first championship in 40 years.
Maccabi needs to collect three more points from the leader, as well as maintaining its superior goal difference (44 to 39), in the remainder of the season in order to become the first team in 53 years to win four consecutive league titles.
After winning just one of five matches and relinquishing first place for the first time since December, Beersheba regained its impressive early-season form with two consecutive victories by a 4-1 score-line before getting exactly what it wanted on Monday.
Maccabi, on the other hand, has registered three consecutive goalless deadlocks after also failing to score against Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin, and will likely need to win its remaining three matches against Hapoel Ra’anana, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, while hoping Beersheba slips up against Beitar Jerusalem, Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin, to finish in first place once more.
It took Beersheba six minutes to test Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, with the Serbian stopper looking as composed as ever when he collected Ovidiu Hoban’s rocket from 20 meters out.
Maccabi only knew Rajkovic would be able to play less than three hours before the match, with the Tel Aviv District Court accepting the club’s request for an injunction on his three-match suspension.
The Serbian was suspended by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court last Wednesday for shoving Bnei Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis following the 0-0 draw at Doha Stadium.
Maccabi was outraged and turned to the District Court on Sunday, claiming that Rajkovic was denied his legal rights as he was not permitted to be represented by a lawyer.
Maccabi said that due to his inability to plead his case in Hebrew or English he should have been granted special permission to hire a lawyer.
The District Court initially scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, but the IFA asked to hold it prior to Monday’s match and judge Eitan Orenshtein not only granted Maccabi its wish, but also scheduled the next hearing for June 10, following the end of the season.
Tel Aviv took its time to settle and it wasn’t until the 14th minute that it reached its first chance, with Eran Zahavi firing straight at ’keeper Dudu Goresh, squandering an opportunity he would normally convert.
Despite the open nature of the match, there were few clear-cut chances in the first half and Maccabi coach Peter Bosz made a change at the interval in the hope of breaking the deadlock, sending in Orlando Sa in place of Barak Itzhaki.
Maccabi dominated proceedings in the second half, but was wasteful in front of goal. Tal Ben-Haim fired straight at Goresh with only the ’keeper to beat in the 63rd minute, four minutes before Sa blasted his shot from five meters high above the target with the goal at his mercy.
Maccabi continued to push forward, but Beersheba held on for the precious point which moved it ever so closer to the title.