Hapoel Beersheba midfielder John Ogu celebrates after scoring the winner in last night’s 2-1 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in Netanya.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba clinched a second straight Premier League title in style on Saturday night, defeating its only challenger Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 on the road to establish an unassailable 11-point gap with three matches to play.
John Ogu’s goal one minute from time gave Beersheba a dramatic victory, extending the club’s record winning streak to 10 games.
Beersheba dominated the league from the start of the campaign, and after claiming a first championship in 40 years last season, made it two in a row on Saturday, winning a fourth league title in club history (1975, 1976, 2016, 2017).
“This was a lot tougher than the first championship,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We had special motivation last season after the club didn’t take the title in 40 years. We knew it would be a lot more difficult than last season. It is going to be even more difficult next season.”
Beersheba registered the first good chance of the match in Netanya in the 23rd minute, with Anthony Nwakaeme’s shot being saved by Predrag Rajkovic.
It didn’t take Maccabi long to make the most of the reprieve, with Vidar Orn Kjartansson giving the hosts the lead one minute later with a league-leading 18th goal. Maccabi was centimeters away from doubling its advantage in the 56th minute when Dor Micha’s shot beat ‘keeper Guy Haimov, but went out off the post. Beersheba leveled the score a minute later through Maor Melikson after excellent build-up play by substitute Michael Ohana. Both teams looked to be content with a draw until Elyaniv Barda burst forward, with his initial shot being saved by Rajkovic before Ogu netted the winner from the rebound in the 89th minute, sparking delirium among the away fans.
Elsewhere Saturday, Beitar Jerusalem maintained its hold on third place with a 2-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa. Idan Vered (12) and Dan Einbinder (48) scored for Beitar, which remained two points ahead of Maccabi Petah Tikva.
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Petah Tikva snapped a seven-match losing streak with a 1-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin. Liroy Zhairy netted the only goal of the contest in the 85th minute.
Despite trailing Beitar in the fight for third, which guarantees Europa League qualification, Petah Tikva is still we placed to reach continental competition. Fourth place will also be good enough to qualify for Europa action should Maccabi Tel Aviv defeat Bnei Yehuda in the State Cup final next month, with Petah Tikva holding a six-point gap over Sakhnin.
Ashkelon dropped to a 1-0 defeat at rock-bottom Hapoel Kfar Saba, with a Branislav Jovanovic mistake gifting Kfar Saba’s Eli Elbaz the winner in the 75th minute. Ashkelon’s Josip Ivancic being sent off moments later after receiving a second yellow card for arguing with referee Eli Hakhmon.
Kfar Saba remained alive the battle against demotion, closing to within three points of Ashkelon and safety with each team having two more matches to play.
Hapoel Tel Aviv lost 2-0 at Ashdod SC, with Tom Mond (54) and Or Inbrom (94) scoring for the hosts who secured another season in the top flight with the win.
Tel Aviv hosts Ashkelon next weekend and another defeat will send it to the second division for the first time since 1989 a
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