Hapoel Beersheba maintained its sixpoint advantage at the top of the Premier League standings with a sixth straight win on Sunday, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1, while Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Maccabi Haifa 3-0.
Despite the recent winning streak and cushion at the top, Beersheba had been far from convincing on the road this season. Four of its previous five wins came at home at Turner Stadium, but after triumphing in only one of six road games, Beersheba made it two straight away victories on Sunday, coming back from behind to triumph in Petah Tikva.
Giddy Kanyuk gave Petah Tikva the lead from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute after Lidor Cohen was bundled over in the box by goalkeeper Guy Haimov.
Anthony Nwakaeme ensured the reigning champion would leave with all three points though, equalizing with a header in the 43rd minute before setting up his team’s winner seven minutes into the second half. The Nigerian sliced Petah Tikva’s defense with a delightful chip and Ben Sahar made no mistake in front of goal.
“At this stage of the season every win is very important,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We knew it would be a tough game, and it was especially difficult after we conceded the opener. We have seven more matches to play and each match is a big challenge.”
After losing only once in 14 matches to take control of third place, Petah Tikva suffered its fourth straight defeat on Sunday, leaving it only two points ahead of Beitar Jerusalem in the battle for Europa League qualification.
Beersheba hosts Beitar next Monday before playing three straight games on the road, the last of which being a visit to Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“As long as we win our fate is in our hands and we don’t care about what any other team is doing,” added Bachar.
With only seven matches remaining in the season, and with a significant advantage in goal difference over Maccabi (+47 compared to +31), Beersheba can likely afford to lose two more matches and still finish in first place even should the yellowand- blue pick up a maximum 21 points.
Maccabi cruised to the victory on Sunday, opening a two-goal lead in an excellent first half. Tal Ben-Haim broke the deadlock in the 28th minute, with Dor Micha doubling the advantage 10 minutes later.
Ben-Haim found the back of the net for the second time in the 72nd minute, taking his tally for the season to 13 league goals.
“Fantastic game,” said Maccabi coach Lito Vidigal. “The players deserve this result. They give everything. They are fighting and playing well. I believe and I don’t give up and everybody who works with me has to believe.
“We still have a lot of space to grow,” added the Angolan. “The most important thing is that we don’t give up and come to training every day to work hard. I don’t have to think about Beersheba. I think about my team and my players. My way to work is to be better in the future.
“We have to fight to win all the games we have left.”
Elsewhere, Mickey Siroshtein’s 88th-minute equalizer gave Ashdod SC a 1-1 draw against Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Shoval Gozlan gave Kiryat Shmona the lead in the 62nd minute, but Siroshtein ensured Ashdod claimed a share of the spoiled and moved seven points clear of the relegation zone.
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