A brace by January arrival Barak Badash settled the score of the "Match of the Season" as Maccabi defeated Hapoel Beer Sheva 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium
With just eight games left to play in the 2013/14 Israeli Premier League season, Maccabi Tel Aviv last night widened their grip on the top spot in the table to eight points with a 2-0 victory over second-placed Hapoel Beer Sheva in what had widely been billed as the "Match of the Season". January arrival Barak Badash, deputising for the suspended striker Rade Prica, scored his first goals in front of the home crowd. The first, much like in the last encounter between the two clubs, came in the opening moments of the match, with Badash adding his second twenty-six minutes later. For all their possession, in particular in the second half, the visitors posed precious little threat in front of goal and Maccabi Tel Aviv sailed virtually unhindered to their first victory in the top six play-off season.
With the match barely underway, Maccabi defender Omri Ben Harush sent a splendid pass to Tal Ben Haim down the left side. The winger made light of his marker and crossed close to the goalmouth where Badash guided the ball past Beer Sheva's Nigerian keeper Augustine Ejide to give Maccabi an early 1-0 advantage, two minutes earlier in fact than Maccabi's opening goal in their last home encounter with Hapoel Beer Sheva. Slowly the visitors recovered their composure and saw more of the ball, but all of the real chances were being created at the other end of the pitch. A pass by midfielder Eran Zahavi to Carlos Garcia was headed into the hands of the keeper and four minutes later a second effort by the Spanish defender from inside the area went wide. But a third effort, in the 27th minute, was truly a team effort. Young winger Dor Micha found Sheran Yeini on the right and the team captain crossed back into the area to Eran Zahavi who slid the ball past the Beer Sheva goalline defence to Badash who struck above Ejide into the net: 2-0 to Badash, 2-0 to Maccabi Tel Aviv, an advantage the home side maintained throughout the first half.
After the restart, Beer Sheva head coach Elisha Levy made two substitutions in the hope of reviving his side's fortunes, but much like in the first half all the action was at Maccabi's end of the pitch. Five minutes in Sheran Yeini passed cleverly to Dor Micha on the right. The young winger's cross into the box was sent back to Yeini just outside the area, who steadied the ball with his head and then volleyed left-footed to the goal. Unfortunately Ejide was there to sweep it away for a corner. A minute later Barak Badash found Eran Zehavi ahead of the entire Beer Sheva defence but an onrushing Ejide managed to get his whole body in front of the midfielder's effort. Five minutes after that Dor Micha missed from close range after receiving a clever ball from Tal Ben Haim. But the pressure from head coach Paulo Sousa's troops was relentless and just past the hour mark Serbian midfielder Nikola Mitrovic lifted a sublime ball into the area for Eran Zahavi, once again behind the Beer Sheva defence, but Ejide leapt high to palm his effort to safety. Throughout most of the match Maccabi keeper Juan Pablo hardly broke a sweat, but in the closing moments he was forced to jump high to tip over a free kick by Beer Sheva's largely inactive star midfielder Maor Buzaglo.
But at the final whistle Juan Pablo's 17th clean sheet of the league season was intact and Maccabi Tel Aviv had vanquished title pretenders Hapoel Beer Sheva at Bloomfield Stadium for the second time this season. Next week, in their third play-off encounter, the team will head north to Kiryat Shmona, where they lost a league match for the last time on January 13th of this year.