Beersheba, Hapoel TA settle for goalless draw

Defending champs fail to break down Hapoel defense • Mac Haifa beaten by Sakhnin.

Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda (photo credit: MEIR EVEN HAIM)
Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda
(photo credit: MEIR EVEN HAIM)
Champion Hapoel Beersheba was held to a 0-0 draw by Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday night, dropping its first points of the Premier League season.
Beersheba coach Barak Bachar made five changes to the lineup which beat Celtic 2-0 in the second leg of the Champions League playoffs last Tuesday, a win which wasn’t enough to overturn a 5-2 loss from the first leg.
The effort invested in the victory over Celtic and the injuries picked up by the Beersheba players cost the team on Saturday, and it deserved no better than a single point in Petah Tikva.
“We expect more from ourselves,” said Bachar. “We faced a good team and we couldn’t break them down. I don’t think this has anything to do with the match against Celtic. We can’t win every match and this really is no tragedy.”
After beating Hapoel Tel Aviv to start the season, Maccabi Haifa was brought back down to earth on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat at Bnei Sakhnin.
Haifa got off to a winning start under new coach Rene Meulensteen last week, but suffered a defeat in its second match of the campaign for a fifth straight year, with Georginho netting the only goal of the match in the 23rd minute. The Brazilian raced almost unchallenged from the center of the field and Haifa couldn’t find an equalizer, with Shoval Gozlan’s goal in the 78th minute being wrongly disallowed for an offside.
“I thought we played really well,” said Meulensteen. “There was only one team playing football, but it was very hard with everybody behind the ball.
It is a shame. I don’t think we deserved to lose the game.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Petah Tikva claimed their first victories of the season, both triumphing 1-0, while Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Ra’anana remained winless.
Maxim Plakuschenko gave host Haifa all three points against Bnei Yehuda with his winner in the 76th minute. Petah Tikva’s Liroy Zhairi scored the only goal of the match against Ra’anana in Netanya in the 44th minute.
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem will be in action on Sunday following their participation in the Europa League last Thursday.
Maccabi, which advanced to the group stage with a penalty shootout win over Hajduk Split, visits Ashdod SC. Beitar welcomes Ironi Kiryat Shmona after drawing 0-0 with Saint-Etienne in France on Thursday night, losing the tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Striker Omer Atzili likely played his final match for Beitar on Thursday, agreeing personal terms and undergoing a medical at La Liga club Granada over the weekend. An arbitrator set Atzili’s value at 750,000 euro following a long process and the rising star always had his sights set on playing in Europe, even with Beitar offering a three-year contract extension which would have earned him 1.6 million euro.
Atzili was called up to the Israel national team for the first time on Friday ahead of the blue-and-white’s 2018 World Cup qualifying opener against Italy in Haifa on September 5.
Atzili is one of three new players in the squad together with Maccabi Haifa’s Firas Mugrabi and Dan Einbinder of Beitar Jerusalem.