after last night’s 2-1 defeat to Maccabi Haifa which left them needing a win over Bnei Sakhnin next week to secure a first championship in 40 years..
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Beersheba will have to wait at least one more week to end its 40-year championship drought after suffering its first Premier League defeat in nearly eight months on Saturday night, losing 2-1 to Maccabi Haifa while Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Beitar Jerusalem 2-0 to cut the gap at the top to two points.
Beersheba still has its fate in its own hands, with a win over Bnei Sakhnin at Turner Stadium in its final match to secure the club its first league title since 1976 regardless of Maccabi’s result against Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium.
Should Beersheba fail to defeat Sakhnin, Maccabi can claim its fourth straight championship with a victory over Haifa.
Beersheba would have only needed a draw against Sakhnin had it not conceded a 93rd-minute goal from Haifa’s Eyal Meshumar, snapping a 29-match unbeaten streak. Maor Melikson had given Beersheba the lead in the 41st minute and the club’s long-suffering fans could already taste glory. However, Hen Ezra equalized for the hosts with a stunning strike from the edge of the box three minutes into the second half before Meshumar broke Beersheba hearts while also booking the Greens a Europa League berth for next season.
Beersheba would have still clinched the title had Maccabi not beaten Beitar at Teddy Stadium. However, Eran Zahavi scored from the penalty spot in the 59th minute, with Beitar’s Jesus Rueda being sent off, and Haris Medunjanin secured the three points in the 89th minute.
“This hurts and this is sad, but we still only need to win next week,” said Bachar. “We led and were in control, but unfortunately we made uncharacteristic mistakes and lost.
Now we need to win our final match at home and take the championship.”
Zahavi already congratulated Beersheba after the gap grew to five points last week, but he said on Saturday that deep down he always believed his team still had an outside chance.
“Sometimes you say what people want to hear,” explained Zahavi. “They still have a much better chance, but you always believe you can do it.
Our chances have improved from last week and we need to beat Haifa and then see what Beersheba does.”
Maccabi coach Peter Bosz, who is being linked with a move to Dutch giant Ajax, echoed his captain’s sentiment.
“I like to focus on my own team and that is the only thing we can do,” said Bosz. “The chance now is a bit bigger but we still have a lot to do. We are happy because it is still possible. Normally you think it is over with a five point gap with two games left. I assume Sakhnin will want a good result in Beersheba, but first we have to beat Haifa and then we can see what will happen in Beersheba.”
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 1-1. Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Kfar Saba drew 1-1 and Bnei Sakhnin tied 1-1 with Hapoel Ra’anana.
The battle against relegation will be decided on Monday, with Hapoel Acre (33 points, -21 goal difference), Hapoel Haifa (33 points, -10) and Kiryat Shmona (35 points, -7) all still in danger.