Hapoel Beer Sheva crowned Israeli champions


Hapoel Beer Sheva claimed their first Ligat Ha'Al success since 1976 after beating Bnei Sakhnin 3-1.

The Negev team started the final match of the season two points ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv, who were looking for a fourth straight title. With an inferior goal difference, Beer Sheva had to win to become champions.

The 16,000 fans at Beer Sheva's Turner stadium were stunned into silence after just six minutes as Sakhnin took an early lead through Firas Migrabi.

But Hapoel staged an impressive comeback, Maor Buzaglo equalised 10 minutes later and Maor Melison put Beer Sheva ahead just before half time.

There were frayed nerves in the second half as Beer Sheva failed to take chances to extend their lead but Ben Sahar, the former Chelsea striker, came off the bench to secure the league title with a 77th minute strike.

Beer Sheva coach Barak Bakhar said: "Maccabi, as always, picked up the points and took us all the way but ultimately I think we were hungrier for the title and that made the difference. This is not a one-off. We are at the top to stay."

The toast of Beer Sheva is its owner Alona Barkat, who was thrown in the air by her joyous players after the match. Buying the team nine years ago when it was in the second division, she has led them out of 40 years in the football wilderness. "Next stop Champions League," she said.

Beer Sheva will begin their European campaign in the unseeded half of the second qualifying round draw. Maccabi Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa have qualified for the Europa League.

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