On the all-time list of great upsets, Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s 2:0 away win
against Inter last week at the San Siro will not make the Top 10. Or even the top 100. But for fans of Israeli soccer this victory on the hallowed turf of one of European football’s most iconic stadia will be right towards the top, joining Hapoel Tel Aviv’s 3:1 aggregate win over Chelsea in the second round of the 2001-2 UEFA Cup that featured a 1:1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and Maccabi Haifa’s 3:0 win against Man United in 2002-3 Champions League group play in a game that took place on Cyprus.
The victory was well-earned for the Israeli champions, who kept their shape intact and were patient with their offensive chances. A 54th minute cross into the area by Lucio Maranhao was neatly finished by Miguel Vitor and put the Israelis in the lead, and a 69th-minute picture-perfect free kick by Maor Buzalgo made is 2:0, a score that would hold until the final whistle. And definitely watch that goal a few times.
On defense, Beer Sheva’s high line on resulted in 3 offsides calls against Inter, and their swarming and aggressive defense also caused them to be whistled for four yellow cards, but although Inter would continue to press, earning 13 conceded corners, none would find their way into the net.
For the upstart Israelis, it was a signature win against one of Europe’s most
iconic teams, albeit one that is no longer an elite one. For Inter, it was yet another in a series of disappointing results, reminding them that Juventus and Roma are now the class of Serie A and Italian football. But they still have some pretty sweet kits.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva’s rapid ascent to the apex of Israeli football has been a breath of fresh air in a league used to a steady parade of predictable champions- Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Beitar Jerusalem. Shuffle.
Repeat. But Hapoel has upended the order, featuring a roster of Jews, Arabs, and Christians has transformed Be’er Sheva from a lonely UEFA outpost into northern Negev into a hotbed of soccer with one of the more intense home-field advantages in not only Israel, but all of Europe.
Be’er Sheva started play in Group K as the 203rd-ranked club in UEFA, compared to #42 for Sparta Praha, #43 for Inter, and #103 for Southhampton, but notice has been served. This club of Jews, Arabs, and Christians, and Israelis, Portuguese, Nigerians, and Brazilians can beat anyone. Watch out.
Be’er Sheva hosts Southampton on September 29 looking to stay atop the group.
Europa League news of the opposite variety also transpired on Matchday 1 to Maccabi Tel Aviv, who pulled off one of the more stunning collapses in recent history against Zenit St. Petersburg. Up 3:0 after 70 minutes in Netanya, Maccabi conceded three goals in less than 10 minutes and then the deciding goal in extra time, not even snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but actually prying the jaws of victory open with every last bit of their strength and then throwing away the win to lose 4:3. At home. There is literally no excuse for that kind of behavior.