Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme looks to regain his scoring touch when the league leader visits Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
On the back of two straight draws and with the surging Maccabi Tel Aviv moving tied on points, two-time reigning champion and Premier League leader Hapoel Beersheba all of the sudden finds itself under pressure.
Beersheba’s failure to pick up all three points against Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Haifa at Turner Stadium, combined with Maccabi’s five-match winning streak, means the defending champ is only ahead of the yellow-and-blue thanks to a one-goal edge (+15 to +14), with both teams having 38 points from 18 matches.
Maccabi hosts Hapoel Ashkelon on Sunday, giving Beersheba an opportunity to settle some nerves when it visits rock-bottom Hapoel Acre on Saturday.
Acre has lost seven of its past eight matches and is seven points from safety. The team will also be playing for the first time following the resignation of coach Eldad Shavit on Tuesday. His assistant Itzik Tweezer was appointed in his place.
Beersheba will not only be aiming to win on Saturday, but will hope to do so in comfortable fashion and pick up some much-needed confidence.
Beersheba’s following league match will be against Hapoel Ra’anana before visiting Maccabi Tel Aviv on February 4.
“We are going through a period in which we are struggling to win, but I have confidence in our players, our team and our ability,” said striker Ben Sahar, who netted the side’s equalizer in the 1-1 draw against Hapoel Haifa.
“There is still a long way to go in the league and the real Hapoel Beersheba will turn up.”
Hapoel Haifa has won just two of its last six games, but enters Saturday’s clash against Ironi Kiryat Shmona in fourth place, only two points off the summit. Haifa is one point behind Beitar Jerusalem, which welcomes Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.
Sakhnin will be guided for the first time by new coach Tal Banin. The former Israel international replaces Felix Naim, who was sacked two weeks ago.
Banin hasn’t coached since he was fired by Hapoel Haifa in December 2015.
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Haifa visits Ashdod SC and Hapoel Ra’anana hosts Bnei Yehuda.
Also Sunday, Maccabi Netanya goes to Maccabi Petah Tikva.