Beersheba held by impressive Hapoel Haifa

Beersheba has won just two of its first five matches of the campaign, struggling to recapture last season’s form.

Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Beersheba forward Anthony Nawkaeme.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Hapoel Beersheba’s Premier League title defense stalled once more on Saturday night, with the two-time defending champion only managing a 1-1 draw at Hapoel Haifa.
Beersheba has won just two of its first five matches of the campaign, struggling to recapture last season’s form.
Czech striker Tomas Pekhart gave Beersheba the lead after a mistake in the Haifa defense in the fourth minute. But the hosts controlled the second half and scored a deserved equalizer through Hanan Maman’s stunning free kick from 30 meters out in the 62nd minute.
The draw extended Haifa’s unbeaten start to the season and took it to the summit of the standings for at least 24 hours. Maccabi Tel Aviv can climb up to first place with a win over Maccabi Haifa on Sunday, with Beitar Jerusalem, which entered the weekend on top, hosting Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday.
“Instead of continuing to attack at 1-0 and double our lead we sat back and allowed Hapoel Haifa back into the match,” said Hapoel Beersheba coach Barak Bachar, whose team visits Viktoria Plzen in Europa League action in the Czech Republic on Thursday. “We had the momentum and could have finished off the match, but we dropped a gear and Haifa didn’t deserve to lose.”
Haifa coach Nir Klinger was pleased after another convincing performance by his side.
“I told the players that we have nothing to lose and we showed again that we can compete against any team in the league,” said Klinger.
Earlier Saturday, Diya Saba continued his electric start to the season with two more goals to lead Maccabi Netanya to a 3-0 victory at Ashdod SC. Saba took his tally for the season to a league-best six goals in five matches, scoring in the 53rd and 64th minutes. Saba turned provider seven minutes from time, setting up Alhassane Keita.
Netanya climbed up to fourth place in the standings while Ashdod remained with a single point. Ashdod coach Reuven Atar’s winless streak reached 18 matches with the defeat, a disastrous run of results that began while he guided Hapoel Haifa in January 2015 and also includes a stint at Netanya.
Ashdod is tied with Ra’anana with a single point after the latter dropped to a 3-0 loss to Hapoel Ashkelon in coach Guy Levy’s debut on Saturday. Levy replaced Dudu Avraham last week, but Ra’anana is still winless, with Goodness Ajayi giving Ashkelon the lead 16 seconds into the second half before Mirko Oremus clinched the three points with a brace (62, 71).
Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre and Bnei Yehuda drew 1-1. Dovev Gabay gave Bnei Yehuda the lead after 10 minutes, with Ben Azubel equalizing for the hosts 15 minutes later.
On Sunday, Maccabi Tel Aviv goes for its fourth straight league win when it hosts Maccabi Haifa. The yellow-andblue bounced back from its defeat to Beitar Jerusalem in its opener with three consecutive victories and Sunday’s showdown will mark the start of an important three-match stretch over eight days. Tel Aviv hosts Spanish side Villarreal in its second Europa League group game on Thursday and will be back in action just three days later when it visits Hapoel Ashkelon in league action.
Also Sunday, Sharon Mimer makes his debut as the coach of Maccabi Petah Tikva when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin.