Soccer: Beersheba extends gap at the top once more

Reigning champion opens 10-point margin with win over Bnei Yehuda; Maccabi Haifa falls to Maccabi Petah Tikva.

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January 15, 2017 02:31
2 minute read.
Hapoel Beersheba

Hapoel Beersheba striker Ben Sahar (left) surges past Bnei Yehuda’s Marko Jovanovic. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

 
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Hapoel Beersheba came back from a goal down to beat Bnei Yehuda 2-1 at Turner Stadium on Saturday night, moving 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League standings and overcoming the distraction of having one of its best players watching the match from the stands.

Beersheba snapped a three-match winless streak in the league, its longest since the end of the 2014/15 campaign, with a 2-0 victory over Maccabi Haifa last Tuesday and reestablished a double-digit margin, at least until Maccabi Tel Aviv plays Hapoel Tel Aviv on Monday night, with another victory at Turner, Ben Bitton’s own goal in the seventh minute gave Bnei Yehuda the lead, but Maor Melikson leveled the score one minute before the break and Ben Sahar headed in the winner in the 68th minute.

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Beersheba was without star midfielder Maor Buzaglo, who may well have played his last game for the team. Buzaglo was suspended until he faces further disciplinary action on Sunday following his attack against the club on social media on Thursday. He claimed that coach Barak Bachar had benched him in the match against Haifa for unprofessional reasons, with Buzaglo’s contract at the club to run out at the end of the season. Club owner Alona Barkat released a statement contradicting Buzaglo’s claims, saying he “crossed a red line.”

Bachar refused to comment on the matter on Saturday, but was delighted with the win.

“We showed our character by maintaining our composure even when we conceded an early goal,” said Bachar. “We equalized at a crucial moment and we dominated the second half. I’m very happy because this is a very important win.”

Maccabi Petah Tikva handed Maccabi Haifa a 2-0 defeat at home for the second time in a week on Saturday. After knocking the Greens out of the State Cup last weekend, Petah Tikva climbed up to second place in the standings thanks to goals from Nenad Adamovic (48) and Guy Melamed (50).

Haifa has won just one of its past eight league matches, suffering three defeats in its past four games. New Icelandic defender Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson started for the team on Saturday and fellow new signing Omer Damari entered the match as a substitute.

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But Haifa continued to struggle, ending the match with 10 men following Neta Lavi’s sending off in the 89th minute.

“We are in a difficult spot at the moment and everyone can see that,” said Haifa coach Rene Meulensteen. “We have to accept that and also accept the challenge to get out of it.”

Hapoel Ashkelon climbed out of the relegation zone on Saturday, beating Hapoel Ra’anana 2-0. The visitors took the lead through Emmanuel Mbola’s own goal in the 10th minute and Ra’anana played with 10 men from the 17th minute following Mohammed Shaker’s red card.

Rif Meskia secured the points in stoppage time.

Also Saturday, Ashdod SC and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 0-0.

On Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem hosts Hapoel Haifa.

On Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv, with new coach Menahem Koretzki, hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv, which will still be guided by sports director Jordi Cruyff.

Koretzki only had 10 players to train with on Saturday, and Hapoel will enter the match nine points back of safety following Ashkelon’s win.

Also Monday, Bnei Sakhnin welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

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