Hapoel Beerseba’s John Ogu and Beitar Jerusalem’s Claudemir.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Beersheba drew 1-1 in Premier League action in Petah Tikva on Sunday night, each picking up a point which scarcely moves them closer to their respective targets.
Elyaniv Barda’s equalizer in the 77th minute gave Beersheba a share of the spoils and ensured it will remain in second place for at least one more week.
Ofir Kriaf handed Beitar the lead after just 44 seconds, but Jerusalem, which hosted the match in Petah Tikva due to its fans’ unruly behavior, could lose fourth place to Maccabi Haifa on Monday should the Greens beat Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
“We are disappointed with the draw,” said Beitar coach Guy Levy, whose team is winless in its past four matches. “Our first half was superb, one of our best of the season, and we need to take that from this match.”
Barda scored just four minutes after coming on as a substitute, but a mere three minutes later he had to leave the pitch with a muscle strain in his leg which will keep him out of action for the next two to three weeks, meaning he will miss Wednesday’s State Cup semifinal against Hapoel Afula of the National League.
“It was important for us that we improved in the second half and picked up an important point,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy after his team’s third straight draw. “We are facing a crucial match in the cup and our most important goal at the moment is to reach the final.”
Following Sunday’s result, Maccabi Tel Aviv can potentially already clinch a third consecutive Premier League championship next week should it beat Maccabi Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium next Monday and other results go its way in the previous 48 hours.
The battle for European qualification continues on Monday when Kiryat Shmona hosts Haifa. Beersheba and Kiryat Shmona are well placed to qualify for the Europa League from second and third places, but fourth position will also result in continental action next season should either Maccabi Tel Aviv or Beersheba go on to win the State Cup and finish in the top three.
Maccabi plays Ahi Nazareth of the National League in Wednesday’s other semifinal match.
Kiryat Shmona has won just one of its past nine matches, which included a 1-0 home defeat to Maccabi Haifa, which has lost only one of its past 10 games.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s preparations for next season received a boost after star midfielder Tal Ben-Haim indicated he would be happy to remain at the club should he be handed a new lucrative contract.
Sports director Jordi Cruyff and coach Pako Ayestaran have yet to be handed a contract extension for next season, but Ben-Haim, who has been rumored to be wanted on the continent, said he will only leave for an especially good offer.
“I’m not interested in leaving for Europe just for the sake of saying I played in Europe and then returning to Israel in the January transfer window,” he said. “To be part of a club like Maccabi Tel Aviv and win championships is a great opportunity and isn’t something you pass up on easily.”