Two goals from Niv Zrihen gave Hapoel Beersheba a 2-1 victory over Beitar Jerusalem at Turner Stadium on Monday night, ensuring the reigning Premier League champion will take a three-point lead over Maccabi Tel Aviv into the championship playoffs.
Beersheba improved its almost perfect home record this season, winning for the 12th time in 13 games at Turner.
Beersheba still hasn’t lost a league match at Turner since the stadium opened at the start of 2015/16, a run of 30 games which includes 24 wins and six draws.
After a goalless first half, Zrihen netted a sensational brace (49, 59) and Beersheba survived a nervy finish after Itay Shechter (63) had brought Beitar within a goal.
Beersheba’s match against Beitar was the first of three straight home games for Barak Bachar’s team. Hapoel hosts Maccabi Haifa in their championship playoff opener next Sunday before welcoming second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv.
After both teams lacked sharpness in the first 45 minutes, Zrihen gave Beersheba a stranglehold on the match with two goals in 10 minutes.
The 22-year-old, who joined the team from Ashdod SC in the January transfer window, coolly rounded Beitar goalkeeper Boris Kleyman and slotted in the opener four minutes into the second half.
Zrihen doubled Beersheba’s advantage in the 59th minute, releasing an unstoppable left-footed effort from 20 meters out. Zrihen’s strike went to the center of Kleyman’s goal, but the ‘keeper was helpless due to the shot’s sheer ferocity.
The young forward’s brace had Beitar on the ropes, but Shechter gave the visitors a lifeline with his header in the 63rd minute. Shechter’s fifth goal in the past six league games sprung Beitar back into life and the visitors were centimeters away from equalizing in the 72nd minute. Erik Sabo’s powerful shot from 20 meters out got the better of Beersheba stopper Guy Haimov, but was denied by the post, and the hosts held on for three more important points.
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin