Hapoel Beersheba’s Elyaniv Barda.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Anything but a win over Hapoel Acre on Saturday will likely end Hapoel Beersheba’s lingering hopes of challenging for the Premier League title.
Beersheba has won just one of its past four matches and dropped eight points behind first-place Maccabi Tel Aviv after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Maccabi Haifa.
Beersheba will have an opportunity to place a little pressure on the top two with a win over rock-bottom Acre, with Maccabi Tel Aviv not facing Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby until Monday night and second- place Ironi Kiryat Shmona only visiting Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva, Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Hapoel Haifa, while Maccabi Netanya looks to continue its recent momentum when it visits Hapoel Petah Tikva.
With just four points separating fourth and 12th place, while 13th-place Petah Tikva and the relegation zone are only a mere three points further back, a couple of wins are all it takes to shoot up the standings.
Netanya has done exactly that over the past couple of weeks, claiming two consecutive wins since Roni Levy took charge of the team.
On Monday, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby, the first meeting between the teams since their showdown in November, which had to be stopped in the first half after a Hapoel fan ran onto the pitch and assaulted Maccabi midfielder Eran Zahavi.
Both teams were deducted a point and forced to play three home matches away from Bloomfield Stadium.
Maccabi quickly bounced back, winning nine of 12 matches and going unbeaten in its past 10 games to climb to the summit of the standings.
Hapoel won its two matches following the derby, but has since gone winless in 10 contests, resulting in coach Asi Domb’s sacking last Saturday.
Also Monday, Ashdod SC visits Hapoel Ra’anana.
Meanwhile in State Cup last 16 action, Ahi Nazareth of the National League surprised Ashdod SC with a 2-1 win. Ido Exbard (31) and David Gomez (74) scored for Nazareth, with David Solari (89) netting a consolation goal.
Also Thursday, Maccabi Yavne (NL) and Hapoel Afula (NL) secured their progress. Yavne thrashed Shikun Hamizrach (III) 5-1, while Afula beat Ma’alot-Tarshiha (III) 3-0.
Nazareth, Yavne and Afula joined Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva, Kiryat Shmona, Beersheba and Hapoel Kfar Saba (NL) in Sunday’s draw.