Hapoel Be’er Sheva stands atop the Premier League table for the first time in over a decade after brushing aside Bnei Sakhnin 4-0 at the Doha Stadium Saturday.
After overcoming defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv 3-2 in an action-packed game last Monday, the team from the Negev travelled to the Galilee in buoyant mood. Be’er Sheva has seen a resurgence this season under the baton of former Maccabi Haifa coach Elisha Levy, and currently looks the only team capable of challenging Maccabi Tel Aviv for the title.
After a lively start from both teams, Be’er Sheva opened its account after only 10 minutes when a sweet Dovev Gabay’s through-ball found Elyaniv Barda, who coolly rounded Bnei Sakhnin goalkeeper Mahmmoud Kanadil before firing into the empty net.
For the next half hour, Bnei Sakhnin - whose promising start to the campaign is already becoming a memory - tried to equalize, but lacked the finishing touch. Then, five minutes before the break, Maor Buzaglo fired a superb 18-meter pile driver past the helpless Kanadil for 2-0. The 'keeper made amends by acrobatically tipping over Siraj Nassar’s header on the stroke of halftime.
Barda scored Be’er Sheva’s third goal – and his second - midway through the second period after a mix-up in the home defense. Tomer Suissa hammered the final nail into Bnei Sakhnin’s coffin well into injury time, finishing off another quick breakaway attack instigated by the excellent Gabay.
“We are very happy about this result,” coach Levy said after the game, “but it’s too early to talk about the title. We’re still at the beginning. This was a stern test of the players’ personality. They had a good game and didn’t let the expectations get to them. They played attractive soccer, which pleases me, but they have to know that if they want to stay in first place in the league, they’ll have to work hard.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda shared the honors with a 2-2 draw. Following a drab, goalless first half, the game came to life soon after the break when Hapoel’s Omar Damari found space in the box and fired in the opening goal. But four minutes later, Bnei Yehuda’s Oz Raly went on a mazy run through Tel Aviv’s defense to score an excellent equalizer.
Within minutes, Hapoel’s Dutch defender Jurgen Colin was sent off after bringing down Orr Baruch in the box. Hapoel goalkeeper Boris Klayman saved Raly’s ensuing penalty, but Liroy Zhairi was on hand to score from the rebound.
Damari restored parity from the penalty spot after a Bnei Yehuda defender handled in the box, and Hapoel spent the last half hour searching for an illusive winning goal.
Hapoel Haifa’s three-match winning streak came to an end in Ashdod, for whom Timor Avitan scored the only goal of the game.
Finally, spare a thought for cash-strapped, bottom-place Ramat Hasharon. Only nine minutes separated the Premier League newcomer from its maiden victory yesterday. But, typically of a team on a run of bad fortune, Ramat Hasharon let Hapoel Acre’s Elior Cider equalize against the run of play, and the team remains rooted in last spot.