Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Maor Melikson celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal in last night’s 4-1 win over Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Beersheba will enter next week’s showdown with Maccabi Tel Aviv with a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League standings after claiming a 4-1 win at Hapoel Ra’anana on Monday, while the yellow-and-blue was held to a 0-0 draw at Bnei Sakhnin.
Beersheba claimed its second straight 4-1 victory after also defeating Sakhnin by the same score-line last week, while Maccabi also only managed a goalless deadlock in last Sunday’s game against Maccabi Haifa.
Tensions boiled over following Monday’s encounter at Doha Stadium, with both benches clearing and a brawl only being averted by security forces.
Maccabi and Sakhnin were playing just four days after their volatile showdown in the State Cup semifinals.
A Tal Ben-Haim winner with five minutes to play gave Maccabi a dramatic 3-2 win over Sakhnin in an enthralling cup affair at Haifa Stadium last Thursday, booking the yellow-and-blue a meeting with Maccabi Haifa in the final next month.
However, what has dominated the headlines ever since has been the controversy surrounding Maccabi’s first goal of the match, with Sakhnin coach Yossi Abuksis being sent off for his protests after Tel Aviv continued play even though Ali Osman allowed the ball to roll out in order to receive treatment for his injury.
Abuksis clashed with the Maccabi bench following the final whistle on Monday, and the coach was kicked by Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic during the ensuing melee.
Beerhsheba’s match began an hour earlier and it had little trouble dismantling Ra’anana. Maharan Radi (18), Maor Melikson (30), Ben Sahar (52) and Anthony Nwakaeme (62) scored for Beersheba, with Dejan Radonjic (45) netting Ra’anana’s goal.
“We made a statement,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “But regardless of next week’s game we need to come and win this match. We were very aggressive from the start and that was our advantage.”
It took Beersheba 18 minutes to make the breakthrough in Netanya, with Romanian midfielder Ovidiu Hoban setting up the first of three goals on the night. Hoban didn’t actually mean to pass the ball, but was still credited with an assist after his wayward shot was turned in by an alert Radi.
Hoban deserved every credit for his second assist though, squaring the ball from the left in the 30th minute for an incoming Melikson, who made no mistake form close range.
Ra’anana reduced the deficit on the brink of halftime, with Radonjic, who joined the club on loan from Maccabi Tel Aviv in the January transfer window, making the most of some lax defending by Beersheba.
However, the visitors needed just seven second half minutes to restore their two goal cushion, with Sahar slotting his penalty into the bottom right corner after Hoban was toppled over in the box by Ben Binyamin.
Any hope Ra’anana may have had of mounting a comeback was dashed in the 61st minute, with Anthony Nwakaeme heading in Beersheba’s fourth goal of the night after John Ogu’s initial header had hit the crossbar.