Hapoel Beersheba’s John Ogu and Amir Khalaila (29), who both scored in last night’s 3-1 win over Hapoel Ra’anana, embrace after the former’s goal, with Anthony Nawkaeme joining in the celebration.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Hapoel Haifa continues to set the pace at the summit of the Premier League standings, while two-time reigning champion Hapoel Beersheba came from behind to beat Hapoel Ra’anana 3-1 on Saturday.
Haifa remained the league’s only unbeaten team with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Hapoel Acre. The two-week international break did nothing to slow down Haifa’s momentum, with Nir Klinger’s side moving to 17 points out of a possible 21, opening a six-point gap, at least for 24 hours.
With Haifa’s leading scorer Eden Ben-Basat being ruled out at the last moment, it was striker Alon Turgeman who starred for the hosts.
Turgeman netted a hat-trick (4, 21, 58), with Hanan Maman putting the icing on the cake for the winners 10 minutes from time.
Turgeman took his tally for the season to six goals, second only to the nine scored by Maccabi Netanya’s Diya Saba, with Ben-Basat third in the league with five goals.
“I still can’t quite believe we are in first place,” said Klinger. “I always said that we have a talented team here and we will be fine as long as the players remain this committed and continue chasing the ball even when leading by three and four goals. It is nice to be in first place, but that won’t make us complacent ahead of our next match.”
Beersheba looked to be in real trouble when Shimon Abuhazira gave Ra’anana the lead in the 58th minute. However, Isaac Cuenca leveled the score with his first goal for the team in the 77th minute and Amir Khalaila (83) and John Ogu (87) ensured Beersheba escaped with the three points.
“This was the team’s worst game since I have been the coach,” said Beersheba’s furious coach Barak Bachar. “We played disgracefully for large periods of the match. It was awful. I will not allow this to continue.”
Beersheba sits six points back of Haifa, having played one match fewer.
Maccabi Haifa is another of the teams trailing its cross-town rival by six points, with the Greens only managing a 2-2 draw at Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Petah Tikva took a 2-0 lead through Lidor Cohen (14) and Manor Solomon (56), but Haifa would get back into the match through Nikita Rukavytsya’s strike (62). Petah Tikva then lost Gregory Tade to a red card and Roei Kehat equalized for the visitors in the 70th minute.
Haifa had more than 20 minutes to find a winner and complete a comeback, but couldn’t net another goal and coach Guy Luzon was once more booed off the pitch by many of the Green fans.
“I don’t know many teams that would come back from two goals down,” said Luzon. “We played better than we did in other matches that we won. This performance really encourages me. The fans have the right to complain. It is our job to make them happy.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv can move back within three points of the leader with a win over Bnei Yehuda on Sunday. Maccabi Netanya and Beitar Jerusalem are also on 11 points, but only one of them will be able to cut in half the deficit from Haifa as they face each other at Teddy Stadium on Monday.
Elsewhere Sunday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona welcomes Bnei Sakhnin.
Also Saturday, Ashdod SC, guided by new coach Amir Turgeman for the first time, drew 1-1 with Hapoel Ashkelon.
Mauricio Cordeiro gave Ashdod the lead in the 31st minute, with Josip Ivancic (74) equalizing for the visitors, who played with 10 men from the 76th minute following Tal Ayala’s sending off.