Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eran Zahavi.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv piled the pressure on Hapoel Beersheba in the Premier League title race on Sunday night, beating Hapoel Ra’anana 3-0 at Bloomfield Stadium in a match far tighter than the score-line indicates.
Maccabi leapfrogged Beersheba into first place with its sixth win from the past seven matches, extending its unbeaten streak to 14 games, ahead of Beersheba’s visit to Beitar Jerusalem on Monday night.
Eran Zahavi scored from the penalty spot in the eighth minute after a handball in the box, taking his tally for the season to 29 goals, just one shy of Nissim Elmalich’s record for goals in a season from the 1954/55 campaign.
However, instead of building on its early advantage, Maccabi was pushed back by Ra’anana. Goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic and wastefulness on the part of Ra’anana were the only reasons Maccabi managed to maintain its lead until Tal Ben-Haim doubled the advantage in the 67th minute with a sensational chip before Haris Medunjanin made it 3-0 in the 75th minute.
“We played terrible in the first half,” said Maccabi coach Peter Bosz.
“Our goalkeeper saved us and kept us in the game after we scored from a penalty.
We didn’t deserve to lead. But we changed things at halftime and we took control of the game.”
Sunday’s match was one of the last Maccabi will play at Bloomfield for the foreseen future, with the club announcing earlier in the day that it will host it’s home matches at the Municipal Stadium in Netanya next season due to the closure of Bloomfield for renovations.
Bloomfield will undergo a complete overhaul that is expected to take around three years.
On Monday, Beersheba looks to get back to winning ways after drawing its past three matches, its longest winless streak this season.
Beersheba, which had previously won a club-record eight consecutive matches and is unbeaten in 23 games, beat Beitar in both their previous meetings this season, including at Teddy last October.
“We made the most of the break and even gave the players three days holiday, which they desperately needed,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar on Sunday. “We are ready for the final stretch. We continue to believe in ourselves. Of course we are disappointed with our recent results, but we are focused on our final eight matches.”
Beitar, which is in third place 12 points behind Beersheba, had won six consecutive matches before losing 2-0 to Bnei Sakhnin in its most recent contest.
“I don’t think there are any favorites in this match,” said Jerusalem coach Slobodan Drapic. “We can beat any team with our fans at Teddy.
We are not thinking about finishing in second place but only of playing the best we can until the end of the campaign. If we relax now we will pay for it at the start of next season. We don’t care about the battle for the championship. We lost our last game and we want to get back to winning ways, especially in front of our fans.”
Elsewhere Sunday, Hapoel Haifa and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 0-0 at Haifa Stadium.
Haifa remained in the relegation zone, four points back of Kfar Saba and safety.