Maccabi Petah Tikva midfielder Uri Magbo (left) celebrates after scoring a 90th-minute equalizer in last night’s 1-1 draw against Hapoel Beersheba..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
A 90th-minute equalizer by Uri Magbo on Saturday denied Hapoel Beersheba a third straight Premier League win and a fairy-tale return to the team by Maor Buzaglo.
The star midfielder was suspended by the club from last week’s win over Bnei Sakhnin due to his criticism of coach Barak Bachar on social media. He returned to training after posting an apology on Monday, and with Beersheba failing to break down Petah Tikva’s defense, Bachar sent Buzaglo on as a substitute in the 58th minute.
Buzaglo rewarded the coach with the opener 14 minutes later, but his match ended three minutes from time due to injury.
Magbo, who only joined Petah Tikva from Beitar Jerusalem on Thursday, made the most of a defensive mistake to give the hosts a deserved 1-1 draw on the brink of stoppage time.
“This is a fair result,” admitted Bachar.
“Petah Tikva is one of the better teams we have faced all season.”
Petah Tikva remained in third place, 10 points back of Beersheba, with Maccabi Tel Aviv having a chance to close within six points of the reigning champion when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Sunday.
Rock-bottom Hapoel Tel Aviv claimed a crucial win in its battle against relegation on Saturday, defeating Hapoel Ashkelon 1-0 to close within six points of safety.
Ofer Verta scored the only goal of the uneventful encounter in the 76th minute, giving Hapoel its first win since the takeover by the ownership group led by the Nisanov brothers.
Hapoel, which was deducted nine points after entering a stay of legal proceedings due to its financial troubles, also picked up all three points for the first time under coach Menahem Koretzki.
“This was a very very important match. Perhaps the club’s most important match in the past decade,” said an excited Koretzki.
“I’ve hardly had a chance to train the squad so I didn’t expect much more from my team. I’m happy we made the most of a setpiece and I hope we can build on this win.”
Maccabi Haifa’s dismal form continued on Saturday with a 3-0 loss at Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Haifa suffered its third consecutive defeat in the league without scoring a goal, with Ofir Kriaf (21), striker Shlomi Azulay (86) and midfielder Shlomi Azulay (91) giving Kiryat Shmona a well-earned victory which strengthens its hold on fourth place.
Haifa is in sixth place, six points back of Kiryat Shmona.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa beat Hapoel Ra’anana 1-0 courtesy of Maharan Lala’s winner in the 62nd minute. Since beating Beersheba 1-0 last month, Ra’anana has lost five straight matches by a combined goal difference of 12-1, leaving it only four points off the relegation zone.
Maccabi Tel Aviv enters Sunday’s match against Sakhnin still without a new head coach, with sports director Jordi Cruyff to guide the team for a third straight league game. Cruyff said on Thursday that “we know who we want as the new coach and we are working on it”, adding that “I hope that an announcement will come soon.”
The absence of a full-time replacement for Shota Arveladze hasn’t hurt the team’s results to date, with Maccabi winning its three matches over all competitions under Cruyff, including two straight in the league, something which hadn’t happened since last September.
Sakhnin enters Sunday’s match in excellent form, not losing since November, a run of eight matches, including last week’s impressive 5-2 victory over Kiryat Shmona.
Also Sunday, Bnei Yehuda hosts Ashdod SC and Beitar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Kfar Saba.
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