Beersheba pulls ahead in title race

Challenger beats three-time reigning champion Maccabi Tel Aviv on the road to move into first place.

By
December 22, 2015 03:51
2 minute read.
Hapoel Beersheba

Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Melikson celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal in last night’s 2-1 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

 
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Hapoel Beersheba proved it is more than capable of ending Maccabi Tel Aviv’s stranglehold over Israeli soccer on Monday night, claiming a 2-1 win over the three-time defending champion at Bloomfield Stadium to leapfrog into first place in the Premier League standings.

Beersheba made a statement by defeating the yellow-and-blue on the road for the first time since April 2011, playing a tactically perfect match on the way to a memorable victory.

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Maccabi and Beersheba entered the encounter tied on 32 points, with the yellow- and-blue sitting at the summit thanks to a slightly superior goal difference.

Beersheba needed less than two minutes to make its intentions clear at Bloomfield, with Elyaniv Barda scoring from close range. Maor Melikson doubled the advantage in the 39th minute and Eli Dasa’s goal in the 84th minute ultimately proved to be of little consolation for Maccabi, which had it six-match unbeaten streak snapped.

Beersheba extended its unbeaten run to 10 matches, winning for the ninth time over that stretch.

Maccabi will be confident of bouncing back, but it remains to be seen if it will do so with coach Slavisa Jokanovic. The Serb is being tipped with a move to Fulham of the English Championship, with reports in England claiming he may leave Maccabi by the weekend.

It took just 53 seconds for the game to burst into life. Nosa Igiebor’s shot left goalkeeper Dudu Goresh stranded and was making its way into the back of the net until Ben Turgeman cleared it from the line at the last moment.

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Less than a minute later, it was Beersheba which broke the deadlock.

Maharan Radi, who left Maccabi for Beersheba last summer in search of more playing time, found Melikson in space in the second minute and his cross took a slight yet crucial deflection off Omri Ben-Harush which allowed Barda to easily head in from close range for his eighth goal of the league campaign.

Maccabi seized control after that, but it struggled to translate its possession into scoring opportunities. Beersheba was comfortable soaking up the pressure and allowing Eran Zahavi to settle for shots from distance, like the one in the 16th minute which went just wide of the upright.

Maccabi finally caught the Beersheba defense off-guard in the 26th minute, but despite only having the ‘keeper to beat, Dasa couldn’t find the target and wasted Zahavi’s splendid pass.

The hosts would of course live to regret it, with Beersheba making it 2-0 six minutes from the break.

The visitors quickly broke out of defense, with Melikson receiving Radi’s lobbed pass, rounding goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, who was 40 meters from his goal, before slotting the ball into the empty net.

Jokanovic made a double substitution after the interval, sending in Barak Itzhaki and Tal Ben-Haim in place of Eden Ben-Basat and Dor Peretz. However, the yellowand- blue still struggled to find a way past Beersheba’s compact formation, barely registering dangerous scoring opportunities in the second half.

Maccabi got the help it needed six minutes from time, with Dasa’s shot from 20 meters out taking a crucial deflection off Barda and leaving Goresh helpless.

However, Beersheba would hold on for the win, one which it will remember for a long time should it end the season with the title.

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