(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Hapoel Beersheba remained hot on the heels of Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday night despite registering one of its poorer performances of the season.
Beersheba struggled to create scoring opportunities and was second- best to Hapoel Haifa for large periods at Vasermil Stadium. However, it had good fortune on its side and closed to within a single point of the summit of the Premier League standings thanks to a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Danilo Nikolic own-goal in the 79th minute.
Maccabi can reestablish a fourpoint gap when it hosts Beitar Jerusalem in Netanya on Monday night.
“We knew that we would have to be very patient and that Hapoel Haifa would not sit back,” said Beersheba midfielder Maor Buzaglo, whose cross from the left found the back of the net after Haifa goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale parried the ball against his own defender. “Luck is part of the game and I’m happy that it was on our side tonight. We will take the three points from this match, but not much else.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv returned to winning ways in remarkable fashion on Saturday, coming from behind three times to beat Ashdod SC 5-4 on the road.
Guy Tzarfati (15), Michael Siroshtein (46) and Yero Bello (64) gave the hosts the lead on three separate occasions, only to have it canceled out time and time again by Israel Zaguri (35), Gili Vermut (53) and Omer Damari (66). Salim Toama finally gave Hapoel the lead three minutes later, with Damari taking his leaguebest tally for the season to 19 goals in the 90th minute before Bello wrapped up the scoring from the penalty spot in stoppage time.
“This is the craziest game I have ever experienced as a coach,” said Hapoel Tel Aviv boss Ran Ben-Shimon.
“We scored some nice goals, but we conceded far too easily. We will have to improve on that against Maccabi in the derby next week.”
Bnei Sakhnin clinched the sixth and final berth to the championship playoffs on Saturday, beating Hapoel Ra’anana 2-0 at Doha Stadium.
Mohamed Kalibat (17) and Mohammad Ghadir (21) scored for Sakhnin, snapping a three-game losing streak.
The league will be split in two after every team completes a 26-game schedule next weekend. The top six will face each other twice more, while the bottom eight clubs will play one another one more time.
Ra’anana (23) is just three points clear of the relegation zone after Maccabi Petah Tikva (20) and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon (20) drew 3-3 on Saturday.
Petah Tikva led by two goals after just six minutes thanks to Naor Pesser (2) and Lidor Cohen (6), but a Hasan Sayaf (7, 27) brace leveled the score before halftime.
Cohen put Petah Tikva back in front eight minutes into the second half, only for Yosef Abu Laban to secure Ramat Hasharon a share of the spoils in the 89th minute.
Also Saturday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat Hapoel Acre 2-0 via goals from Weeam Amasha (65) and Mindaugas Panka (70).
On Sunday, Maccabi Haifa hosts Bnei Yehuda at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.