Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Melikson (left) and Bnei Yehuda defender Ayid Habshi (right).
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem can close to within just two points of Hapoel Beersheba and the summit of the Premier League standings ahead of their showdown next Saturday after the two-time defending champion was held to a 1-1 draw at Bnei Yehuda.
Beersheba got off to an ideal start thanks to Hanan Maman’s sixth-minute opener. But Stav Finish equalized in the 14th minute following a costly mistake by Beersheba’s John Ogu and fully deserved to end the match with a point.
The draw increases Beersheba’s gap over Beitar to five points, but Jerusalem can cut it to just two with a victory at Maccabi Netanya on Monday.
Beitar hosts Beersheba at Teddy Stadium next Saturday, an encounter after which each team will only have three matches remaining.
“You can never be pleased when you don’t win, especially at this stage of the season, but we could have also lost this match,” admitted Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We got the match off to a great start, but we couldn’t build on it and Bnei Yehuda equalized and put us under pressure. We know we are facing another very difficult match against Beitar, but we are aiming to win like we do every game.”
Meanwhile, rock-bottom Hapoel Acre is still alive in the battle against relegation, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 on Saturday. Naor Pesser (61) and Gabi Kanikovski (62) completed a comeback for Acre after Petah Tikva had taken the lead through a Mahamadou Sissoko own goal (52).
Acre moved to within five points of safety, having two matches left to play. Ashkelon, which is also in the relegation zone, four points from Ashdod SC and survival, visits Ashdod on Sunday. A win for Ashdod, which will be guided by Yossi Mizrahi following the sacking of coach Amir Turgeman, will officially secure it another season in the top flight and relegate both Ashkelon and Acre.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Haifa.