Enthusiastic Hapoel Beersheba fans hoist banners.
(photo credit: DANNY MAROM)
Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv will enter their first meeting of the season next Sunday tied on points at the top of the Premier League standings.
Beersheba’s 2-0 win at Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday combined with Maccabi’s 2-0 defeat at home to Maccabi Haifa two hours later means the two main title contenders each have 16 points ahead of their showdown at Beersheba’s Turner Stadium.
Beersheba and Maccabi have each got five wins, one draw and one defeat after seven matches.
Goals by Ben Sahar in the 59th and 72nd minutes gave Beersheba a well-deserved win at a previously undefeated Kiryat Shmona.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was also unbeaten entering Monday’s match, going 27 games without defeat stretching back to last season.
It controlled much of the contest in Netanya, but it was Haifa which found the back of the net, with former yellow-andblue striker Eliran Atar volleying in the opener for the Greens in the 16th minute.
Gary Kagelmacher scored a stunning goal to double Haifa’s lead in the 78th minute, finding the top left corner with a bullet from the edge of the area.
Haifa registered just its third win of the season, but two of those victories have come against Beersheba and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“It was very hard work. We knew it was going to be very difficult because Maccabi Tel Aviv is a fantastic team,” said Haifa coach Rene Meulensteen. “We stood strong and got a goal in the first half and defended really well. We know we are in a process and we are building on it every week. I think this win is evidence of the progress we have made over the past two and a half months.”
Tel Aviv coach Shota Arveladze rued his team’s misses in front of goal.
“In the first half we were a little bit weak and slow but we played much better in the second half and had good chances,” the Georgian said. “I have to also give credit to the opponents they were organized well for 90 minutes. It is a pity we lost but it happens and we have to work on it. We had a tough Europa League game four days before this match but that is not an excuse.
We played the way we hoped in the second half but didn’t score the early goal we needed to get us back into the game.
“Maccabi is strong enough to rebound against Beersheba,” he added.
“But every game is important and no game is worth six points.”
Beersheba coach Barak Bachar is looking forward to next week’s clash.
“We knew this would be a tough match,” he said of the win over Kiryat Shmona.
“We got the second half off to a good start and our patience paid off at the end. This is a very important and difficult win.
Obviously we are playing a good team next week and it will be interesting. We will take one day off and then begin preparing for next week’s big match.”