Tricky trip to Haifa for leader Beersheba

Lurking Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Bnei Sakhnin; Hap TA keeps Kfar Saba in the basement.

April 25, 2017 01:04
3 minute read.
Hapoel Tel Aviv players Samuel Scheimann (left), Ofer Verta (center) and Adi Gotlieb (right) and the

Hapoel Tel Aviv players Samuel Scheimann (left), Ofer Verta (center) and Adi Gotlieb (right) and the rest of their teammates were dejected following last night’s 1-0 loss at Maccabi Petah Tikva, which left the team three points ahead of the relegation zone ahead of a crucial week to its future.. (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)

A victory in the one fixture Hapoel Beersheba has failed to win over the past two seasons will move it to the brink of a second straight Premier League title on Tuesday night.

Beersheba hasn’t managed to beat Maccabi Haifa at Haifa Stadium in three previous meetings since the start of the 2015/16 season. But on the back of eight consecutive wins, and with an eight-point gap at the top with only five matches to play, Beersheba could hardly be more confident of ending its jinx in Haifa.

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Eight points from its final five games will secure Beersheba the championship, even should second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv pick up a maximum 15 points.

Maccabi visits Bnei Sakhnin on Tuesday.

Beersheba could already wrap-up the league title in four days, with a victory over Haifa and a win against Maccabi Tel Aviv in Netanya on Saturday, in their final meeting of the season, to give the southerners at least an 11-point gap with only three matches remaining.

“We have successfully come through the first half of the championship playoffs,” said captain Elyaniv Barda after the team made it five wins from five games in the playoffs with a 3-1 victory at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.

“We will have to quickly recover and we face an extremely difficult match on Tuesday. We are in a good position, and we have been in one for much of the season, so we are remaining patient and not celebrating just yet.”

Haifa handed Beersheba one of only three defeats this season when they last met at Haifa Stadium, winning 2-1 in September.

The Greens returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory at Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday, closing within four points of Petah Tikva (48) and third place, which leads to Europa League qualification.

Haifa is only three points back of fourth place, which will also be good enough for a berth in continental competition next season should Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Bnei Yehuda in the State Cup final next month.

Beitar Jerusalem (47) hosts Petah Tikva on Wednesday.

Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped points for just the second time in 11 matches on Saturday, being held to a 1-1 draw by Beitar at Teddy Stadium to allow Beersheba to move eight points clear.

“I don’t think it’s over but we did make it more difficult for ourselves,” said Maccabi’s veteran defender Tal Ben-Haim.

“Anyone who has played for Maccabi Tel Aviv knows that you can’t give up when there is still a chance. Anytime you have the Maccabi Tel Aviv name on your shirt, you have to come into every match and give 100 percent and that’s exactly what we will do until the end of the season.”

Meanwhile on Monday night, Hapoel Tel Aviv picked up three crucial points in the battle against relegation while handing Hapoel Kfar Saba’s hopes of survival a crushing blow.

Tel Aviv defeated Kfar Saba 2-0 in Petah Tikva through goals from Josef Ganda (38) and Edi Gotlieb (47), moving back within one point of Hapoel Ashkelon and safety, with each team having three more matches to play until the end of the season.

Tel Aviv hosts Ashkelon in their penultimate match of the season in a showdown which could well determine which of the two teams is demoted.

Kfar Saba was guided by new coach Felix Naim for the first time on Monday, but the defeat means it has little chance of remaining in the top flight, sitting in last place, six points from safety.

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