Soccer: Maccabi Tel Aviv closing in on Beersheba

Yellow-and-blue claims 1-0 win over reigning champion to move within five points of first place.

February 5, 2017 04:18
2 minute read.

Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson (left) scored the only goal of last night’s 1-0 win over Hapoel Beersheba in Netanya, with Maharan Radi (right) and Loai Taha not being able to save their team from defeat. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Any notion that the Premier League title race was already as good as over was ended by Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1-0 win over Hapoel Beersheba on Saturday night, reducing the gap at the top of the standings to five points.

Maccabi continued its renaissance under sports director Jordi Cruyff, with Vidar Orn Kjartansson scoring the only goal of the match in the ninth minute to give the yellow-and-blue three points they thoroughly deserved.

Beersheba could have struck a possibly decisive blow in the title race had it won and opened an 11-point gap, even with 15 games remaining in the season.

But Beersheba failed to win on the road for a fourth straight match and Maccabi claimed its fourth win in five league games under Cruyff, who remains the team’s interim coach more than a month since the sacking of Shota Arveladze.

Beersheba dropped to its third defeat of the season and second loss in 17 matches.

Maccabi got off to an ideal start, making the most of a one-man advantage to take the lead. With Beersheba defender Ben Bitton receiving treatment for a head injury, Eli Dasa broke down the right flank and squared the ball for Kjartansson, who lost marker Loai Taha and then benefited from a deflection off the defender.

Maccabi never lost control, with Beersheba struggling to break down the yellow- and-blue formation. Beersheba’s frustration almost cost it dearly in the 38th minute, with John Ogu getting away with a stamp on Tal Ben-Haim.

Tel Aviv deserved to take a two-goal lead into the break and came centimeters away from doing so. Dor Micha was put through by Kjartansson, but his shot was denied by the post, with Ben- Haim sending his rebound wide.

Beersheba coach Barak Bachar sent in substitutes Michael Ohana and Niv Zrihen in the hope they would make a change, but the reigning champion didn’t register its first shot on target until stoppage time and has got plenty more work to do to claim a second straight championship.

Elsewhere, Maccabi Petah Tikva continued its surprise campaign with a 1-0 victory at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, extending its unbeaten streak to 10 matches to strengthen its hold on third place.

Dovev Gabay scored the only goal of the match in the 65th minute, with Petah Tikva holding on for the three points despite having to play with 10 men from the 74th minute following Liroy Zhairi’s red card.

Kiryat Shmona remained in fourth place on 31 points, tied with Beitar Jerusalem, which drew 1-1 at Bnei Yehuda, and Bnei Sakhnin, which beat Hapoel Haifa 1-0.

Beitar took the lead through Itay Shechter in the 36th minute, but Nerijus Valskis (74) got a point for Bnei Yehuda.

Beitar coach Ran Ben-Shimon once more heard calls for his resignation from the team’s fans who have shown the coach little patience since he joined in the summer.

Idan Shemesh scored Sakhnin’s winner in Haifa in the 83rd minute, giving his team its third victory in four league games.

On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Kfar Saba and Ashdod SC hosts Hapoel Ra’anana. Maccabi Haifa goes to Hapoel Ashkelon on Monday.

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