Mac TA, Beersheba settle for goalless deadlock

Yellow-and-blue star Zahavi misses a possibly decisive penalty in 79th minute and Beersheba remains in title race.

Shlomi Arbeitman and Carlos Garcia (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Shlomi Arbeitman and Carlos Garcia
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Israeli soccer’s biggest winner Eran Zahavi uncharacteristically missed a penalty 11 minutes from time on Monday night and Hapoel Beersheba held on for a 0-0 draw against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
After 17 consecutive league matches, Zahavi’s remarkable scoring streak ended in last Sunday’s 2-0 win over Hapoel Ra’anana. The midfielder had netted 25 goals over that stretch, 16 of them this season. He seemed set to start a new streak in the 79th minute on Monday, but his poor spot kick was easily collected by goalkeeper Austin Ejide and the spoils were shared.
League-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona was the biggest winner on Monday, remaining four points clear of Maccabi at the top, with Beersheba a further two points back.
Maccabi looked to get off to a fast start just the way it did in its home victories over Beersheba in the past two seasons, and the hosts took just 14 seconds to register the first shot on target, with Tal Ben-Haim’s effort being collected by Ejide.
Beersheba defender William Suarez then almost gifted the yellow-and-blue the opener two minutes later, but Nikola Mitrovic squandered the opportunity.
Beersheba soon settled into its game plan and was more than happy allowing Maccabi to control the possession in the hope of hitting the hosts on the break.
Elisha Levy’s men created few clearcut chances in the first half, but should have found themselves with a one-man advantage in the 35th minute, only for referee Erez Papir to inexplicably fail to spot Carlos Garcia’s pull on Shlomi Arbeitman’s shirt when the Maccabi defender was the last man on defense.
Beersheba’s star midfielder Maor Buzalgo was kept quiet for most of the first half, but he should have done better three minutes from the break when he fired wide from just inside the box when he had teammates in better positions calling for the ball.
The best chance of the first half arrived in the 44th minute, with Maccabi’s Nosa Igiebor somehow failing to find the target from three meters out with the ‘keeper already beaten after Ejide parried Dor Micha’s shot straight into his path.
The second half got off to a frantic start and had Ben-Haim been slightly more composed with only the goalkeeper to beat Maccabi would have taken the lead in the 50th minute.
The match settled down after that, with both teams creating few scoring opportunities. However, Maccabi still received the one chance that should have been enough to decide the encounter in the 77th minute. Papir awarded Maccabi a spot kick with a questionable call after determining that Ben Biton brought down Zahavi. However, the league’s top scorer missed just the second penalty of his career, firing a weak effort which Ejide collected with ease.
Beersheba almost gifted Tel Aviv the three points seven minutes from time, with defender Tomislav Pajovic’s header, which was meant to land in Ejide’s hands, only being denied by the upright.
Beersheba ended the match with 10 men after Ofir Davidzada was sent off in stoppage time, but the visitors held on for a point, which mainly benefits Kiryat Shmona Meanwhile, Alon Harazi became the second Premier League coach in as many days and the fourth in all this season to leave his job prematurely on Monday after resigning from his position at Hapoel Acre.