Soccer: Beersheba running away with Premier League

Reigning champion opens 10-point gap over Maccabi Tel Aviv, while yellow-and-blue is held by Ashkelon.

December 4, 2016 04:03
3 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv

Maccabi Tel Aviv players Barak Itzhaki (right), Eyal Golasa (center) and Eden Ben-Basat (left) couldn’t hide their frustration at the end of last night’s 0-0 draw against Hapoel Ashkelon in Premier League action. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

Hapoel Beersheba’s lead at the top of the Premier League standings is already at double digits.

The reigning champion moved 10 points clear at the summit with its eighth consecutive league win on Saturday, a 5-0 triumph over Ashdod.

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Meanwhile, the crisis at Maccabi Tel Aviv deepened with a 0-0 draw against rock-bottom Hapoel Ashkelon.

Beersheba sailed to another easy victory after taking a two-goal lead within the first 15 minutes at Turner Stadium. Maharan Radi (8) and a Karlo Brucic own goal (14) put the hosts in the driving seat before Maor Buzaglo (54), Radi (84) and Anthony Nwakaeme (90) put the icing on the cake.

“It is fun to see the players give their all even when the game looks to be over,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar, whose team visits Southampton in a decisive Europa League match on Thursday.

Beersheba, which needs at least a draw with goals to advance to the next round in Europe, improved its overall goal difference over the league winning streak to 29-2 and has picked up 31 out of 36 points so far this season. Beersheba last dropped league points more than two months ago, and with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s title challenge completely collapsing over recent weeks, it is currently hard to see who can threaten the defending champion.

Coach Shota Arveladze’s position at Maccabi is extremely shaky after the yellow- and-blue failed to score for the fifth time in six league games, picking up five of a possible 18 points over that stretch.

Ashkelon has conceded a league-high 24 goals, including 15 over its previous four games. But Maccabi once more failed to find the back of the net despite having 82 percent of the possession and registering 19 shots at goal, although only two on target. Ashkelon didn’t attempt a single shot.

Next up for Maccabi is a crucial Europa League match against Dundalk of Ireland in Netanya on Thursday, but it remains to be seen if Arveladze will still be in charge by then.

“It is not easy to explain what is gong through my mind,” said Arveladze. “The problem is that even with 30 minutes to go we get more nervous and it looked like we won’t score.”

The Georgian said he is not thinking about his future and insisted he is still capable of turning things around.

“Of course it is not a good run, but I believe we can change,” he said, before adding that he is “definitely not” thinking about leaving his position.

Maccabi Haifa can move up to second place and close within eight points of Beersheba with a win over Beitar Jerusalem on Monday.

Despite a tumultuous week, Ironi Kiryat Shmona won for the third time in four games on Saturday, beating Hapoel Haifa 2-0. Kiryat Shmona was guided by coach Tomer Kashtan for the first time in league action after club owner Izzy Sheratzky announced on live radio during last Saturday’s match that he will fire coach Benny Ben-Zaken as he refused to accept his instructions to start with certain players.

Ben-Zaken only guided Kiryat Shmona for three matches, winning two of them.

Shlomi Azulay (38) and Ahmed Abed (71) scored for Kiryat Shmona, with Haifa ending the match with nine men following red cards for goalkeeper Robi Levkovich (64) and Portuguese defender Bruno Pinheiro (87).

Also Saturday, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 0-0.

On Sunday, Hapoel Ra’anana visits Bnei Sakhnin and Bnei Yehuda faces Hapoel Tel Aviv.

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