Hapoel Be'er Sheva return to top of Ligat Ha'Al

Second-half goals from Matan Ohayon, Ben Sahar and Maor Melikson took Hapoel Be’er Sheva back to the top of Ligat Ha’Al after a thrilling comeback away to Bnei Sakhnin.


After former leaders Hapoel Haifa were held by 10-man Ashdod on Saturday, the champions would have been confident of regaining the lead but Idan Shemesh’s early goal for Sakhnin had put Hapoel on the back foot.

The visitors held their nerve, however and, having equalised through Ohayon's first of the season on 53 minutes, they finally made their territorial dominance tell when former Chelsea striker Sahar scored the second on 82 minutes. A third from Melikson sealed the result with two minutes remaining.

Haifa will be disappointed with their result against an Ashdod side only off the bottom due to Hapoel Acre’s four-point deduction earlier in the season.

Ashdod belied their lowly position, however, and  kept the visitors at bay until three minutes before half-time when Alon Turgeman scored, taking his tally for the season to eight.

In a game with just five shots on target, one goal could easily have been enough, but Blessing Chibuike Eleke’s equaliser just before the hour mark was just reward for Ashdod’s hard work.

The home side held out for the point, despite the dismissal for a second yellow card on 83 minutes of Brazilian Adilson Bahia.

At the Teddy Stadium, Yossi Benayoun and Beitar Jerusalem kept up their pressure on the top two, winning by the odd goal in five against Hapoel Ra'anana on Saturday.

Itay Shechter's seventh of the season put Beitar two in front on 35 minutes after French striker Gaetan Varenne's 27th minute opener, but Ra’anana were back in the mix on the stroke of half-time when Shimon Abihazira stroked home a spot kick following a foul by Boris Kleiman.

Beitar restored their two-goal advantage just before the hour when Brazilian Claudemir slotted home but the extra cushion was short-lived, French substitute Jordan Faucher netting just four minutes later for the visitors.

Elsewhere, Bnei Yehuda moved into the top six after Nerijus Valskis's 86th minute winner away to Maccabi Netanya in a game dominated by the home side.

Netanya looked to have salvaged a draw after Ayad Habashi’s 36th minute opener was cancelled out  by Premier League top-scorer Dia Seba’s 12 of the season on 78 minutes. But Lithuanian international Valskis had other ideas, notching his sixth of the campaign, so far. The result puts the sides level on 20 points, just one ahead of the cut-off for the Championship Round.

The biggest win of the weekend came in Kiryat Shmona where Ironi humbled visitors Hapoel Acre 4-0, with three goals coming before half-time.

It took the hosts a while to get going but Shoval Gozlan's strike after 25  minutes set the ball rolling. Eden Shamir (37) and Nigel Hasselbaink (41) added to the score before the break, and Ismail Raiyan completed the scoring with half an hour remaining.

The result leaves Acre there points adrift at the foot of the table, while Ironi are one point outside the Championship qualifying places.

In the weekend’s remaining fixture, Maccabi Haifa dominated proceedings at home to Hapoel Ashkelon but were unable to make it count where it mattered, Ukrainian Nikita Rukavytsya's 62nd minute effort being cancelled out by Croatian Josip Ivančić's 75th minute equaliser for the visitors. The result leaves Maccabi four points of the play-off zone at the midway point in the regular season.

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