Beersheba returns to winning ways vs Ashkelon

Defending champion extends lead over Mac TA to eight points; Yellow-and-blue names Lito as new coach.

Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda (center) broke his long goal drought with this shot during last night’s 2-1 win over Hapoel Ashkelon at Turner Stadium (photo credit: DANNY MAARON)
Hapoel Beersheba striker Elyaniv Barda (center) broke his long goal drought with this shot during last night’s 2-1 win over Hapoel Ashkelon at Turner Stadium
(photo credit: DANNY MAARON)
Five days before the resumption of its Europa League campaign, Hapoel Beersheba got its Premier League title defense back on track with a 2-1 win over Hapoel Ashkelon at Turner Stadium on Saturday night.
Beersheba moved eight points clear of Maccabi Tel Aviv, which visits Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday night in its first match following the appointment of new head coach Lito Vidigal late Friday night.
Lito, 47, a former national team player and coach of his native Angola, joins Maccabi from FC Arouca of Portugal where he has been coaching since 2015. Lito, who was handed a deal until the end of 2017/18, won’t be at the helm for Monday’s match, with sports director Jordi Cruyff to continue and the guide the team as it tries to move back within five points of the defending champion.
Beersheba had a far tougher time than expected on Saturday, having to come back from a goal down against lowly Ashkelon before claiming its 10th home win from 11 matches.
Maor Melikson was brought down in the box in the 39th minute, but had his poor penalty saved by goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba and Ashkelon took a shock lead three minutes into the second half. Croatian Josip Ivancic made the most of some lax defending to stun the local fans.
Beersheba captain Elyaniv Barda, who came on as a substitute in the ninth minute following an injury to Ben Sahar, would come to his team’s rescue. The 35-year-old netted a brace, his first goals in league action in an injury-plagued season, equalizing in the 57th minute and completing the comeback with another clinical finish 12 minutes later.
“For me the league campaign only began a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t play regularly until that stage,” said Barda, who is hoping to feature in Thursday’s Europa League round of 32 first leg against Turkish club Besiktas in Turner. “This was a difficult win, but that only makes it sweeter. I’m really excited ahead of Thursday and I’ll be fresh for that match.”
Maccabi Haifa coach Rene Meulensteen is in danger of losing his job after the Greens dropped to a humbling 3-0 loss to Hapoel Haifa in the derby on Saturday. Maharan Lala (28, 76) and Shlomi Arbeitman (83) scored for the visitors, who beat their crosstown rival for the first time in more than three years, registering their biggest derby win since 2001.
Beitar Jerusalem continued its revival under new coach Sharon Mimer on Saturday, thrashing Hapoel Ra’anana 4-0 on the road. Beitar had combined two straight wins in league action only once in 20 games under previous coach Ran Ben-Shimon, but made it two victories from two matches with Mimer thanks to another lethal display. David Keltjens (19) and Dan Einbinder (35) gave the visitors a two-goal cushion at the break and Hen Ezra (69) and Idan Vered (78) capped the triumph in the second half.
Also Saturday, Bnei Yehuda moved five points clear of the relegation zone, beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 1-0 on the road courtesy of Nerijus Valskis’s 37th-minute strike.
On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv welcomes Ashdod SC and Bnei Sakhnin faces Hapoel Kfar Saba.