HAPOEL BEERSHEBA midfielder Siraj Nasar 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After claiming a memorable win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Beersheba can leapfrog the yellow-andblue and climb to the top of the Premier League standings with a victory at Bnei Sakhnin on Saturday.
Beersheba shattered Maccabi’s aura of invincibility with Monday’s 3-2 win at Vasermil Stadium, handing the defending champion its first defeat of the season. Maccabi had conceded just a single goal on the way to 19 points from a possible 21 in its first seven league contests, but it looked vulnerable in Beersheba and could find itself trailing the southerners come Saturday night.
The yellow-and-blue doesn’t host Maccabi Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium until Monday night, allowing Beersheba to enjoy life in first place for at least 48 hours should it win in Sakhnin.
After triumphing in its first four matches for the first time in club history, Beersheba went winless in its three subsequent games, picking up just two points.
However, it bounced back in a big way against Maccabi on Monday, coming from behind to stun Paulo Sousa’s men.
The victory propelled Beersheba up to second place, two points behind Tel Aviv, and once more raised the question of whether Elisha Levy’s team is a serious title contender.
However, after only securing its top-flight survival in the final match of last season and failing to finish higher than ninth since returning to the Premier League in 2009, Beersheba coach Levy is determined to ensure his players don’t get carried away.
“We recorded a very important victory against Maccabi. It was one of those matches you need to win if you want to be a top team,” said Levy. “I think our team can continue to progress, but we must not get ahead of ourselves. If we want to keep winning we need to continue to work hard. I think we are heading in the right direction.”
Beersheba will be expecting an especially tough time in Sakhnin, which has lost just one match so far this season, falling at the hands of Maccabi Tel Aviv on the road.
Despite its erratic start to the season, Hapoel Tel Aviv can close to within two points of Maccabi with a win over Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday. Hapoel has won four of six games, conceding just two goals in that span, while Bnei Yehuda’s 2-1 defeat to Beitar Jerusalem last week was its sixth in the last seven encounters.
Also Saturday, surprise package Hapoel Haifa, which has won three straight games to move up to third place, visits Ashdod SC, while Ironi Kiryat Shmona hosts Hapoel Ra’anana and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon welcomes Hapoel Acre.
On Monday, Maccabi Haifa will be aiming to kick-start its league campaign when it hosts Beitar Jerusalem.