Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Buzaglo netted his team’s equalizer in last night’s 2-2 draw with Bnei Sakhnin which snapped the Premier League leader’s eight-match winning streak..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba extended its Premier League unbeaten streak to 21 matches, but it was a case of two points dropped rather than one gained on Monday night when Bnei Sakhnin held the leader to a 2-2 draw at Turner Stadium.
Beersheba twice came back from behind to move three points clear of Maccabi Tel Aviv, but it failed to claim a ninth straight victory. The previous time Beersheba didn’t manage to pick up all three points in a match was over two months ago in a draw at Maccabi Haifa.
Beersheba hosts Hapoel Ra’anana in their championship playoff opener next week before hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv at Turner in a possible title decider.
Sakhnin secured its place in the championship playoffs with last week’s 3-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona, and while it conceded a goal for the first time in seven matches on Monday, it will be delighted with an impressive draw that proved it is a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
Beersheba controlled the possession from the start, but Sakhnin never expected to dominate Monday’s encounter, and its plan to soak up the pressure and make the most of its chances when they arrived worked to perfection.
Sakhnin limited Beersheba’s scoring opportunities and Ali Osman gave the visitors the lead in the 36th minute with an unstoppable free kick from the edge of the box. Sakhnin couldn’t hold on to its lead until the break, with Ben Sahar leveling the score with his header in firsthalf stoppage time.
Beersheba hit the ground running at the start of the second half, but it was caught off guard in the 55th minute, with Shlomi Azulay finishing off a superb break forward to put Sakhnin back in front.
Maor Buzaglo ensured Beersheba at least didn’t lose with his splendid free kick from 25 meters in the 76th minute, but the hosts couldn’t extend their winning streak, meaning the gap from Maccabi is only three points.
While the business end of the season is only beginning, Maccabi Tel Aviv has also got next year on its mind, in particular the decision regarding its new home stadium with Bloomfield set to undergo a complete renovation starting in July. The new Bloomfield is only expected to be ready in 2019, leaving Maccabi, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda to look for a new home starting from next season.
Maccabi initially seemed to be leaning towards hosting its matches in Petah Tikva, adding stands behind both goals to take the stadium’s total capacity to 19,000. However, the club has yet to make a final decision on the matter, with Ramat Gan and Netanya also being considered.
Regardless of where it ultimately hosts its games next season, Maccabi is desperate to do so as the reigning champion, with its hopes of claiming a fourth consecutive title being handed a boost with Monday’s result.
“The numbers don’t lie. We are scoring more and we are playing better in my opinion,” said Maccabi striker Orlando Sa when asked about the title race with Beersheba. “We have a massive squad and a lot of players with quality. Beersheba is in good shape but we are still doing our job and we have to keep working. We will see at the end of the season who will win the title.”