Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Claudemir (right) celebrating with Brazilian teammate Georginho..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem’s players overcame the constant off-field distractions surrounding the club to register another Premier League victory on Sunday night, beating Ashdod SC 3-1 to remain within striking distance of top spot in the standings.
After a week of continued speculation regarding the future of coach Benny Ben-Zaken, who could soon be out of a job despite the team’s excellent results, Beitar came back from a goal down to move up to second place, two points back of Hapoel Haifa.
Hapoel Beersheba can leapfrog the two and return to first place, one point ahead of Haifa, with a win against Maccabi Haifa at Turner Stadium on Monday night.
Blessing Eleke gave Ashdod the lead with a sensational strike in the 10th minute, but Beitar would complete a comeback by the break. Mickey Siroshtein leveled the score from close range in the 36th minute and Brazilian midfielder Claudemir expertly curled in a free kick from the edge of the box in first half stoppage time. Zion Zemach secured the three points five minutes from time.
“I really think that this is a very significant win for us, from a mental and professional standpoint,” said Ben-Zaken, who will be hoping that this week he isn’t called for a talk with club boss Eli Ohana after being reprimanding for the team’s poor play in a one-on-one conversation last week, the content of which was quickly leaked.
Earlier Sunday, Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ra’anana draw 1-1. Shlomi Azulay gave Sakhnin the lead on the swamped Netanya pitch in the 76th minute, but Shimon Abuhazira leveled the score for the visitors seven minutes later.
On Monday, Maor Buzaglo will face Hapoel Beersheba for the first time since leaving the club during the summer. The 29-year-old midfielder, who was an integral part of Beersheba’s success over the past four years, suffered a serious knee injury in April and only made his debut for Maccabi Haifa last month after joining the Greens on a free transfer during the summer.
Beersheba suffered its first defeat since August last week, losing 1-0 at Maccabi Netanya. It was Beersheba’s second straight defeat over all competitions after losing 1-0 to Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Toto Cup final three days earlier.
The two-time reigning champion desperately missed Portuguese defender Miguel Vitor and Nigerian forward Anthony Nawkaeme in both matches, but they are set to return on Monday. Club CEO Asi Rahamim said on Sunday that he expects Nawkaeme to remain at the club for many years to come contrary to reports that have linked him with a move in the upcoming January transfer window.
Earlier Sunday, the draw for the State Cup round-of-32, the first in which Premier League clubs participate, was held in Shefayim. The most intriguing tie of the round will see Hapoel Tel Aviv, the National League leader, host Maccabi Haifa in a repeat of the finals from 2011 and 2012.
The amateur players of Bnei MMBE HaGolan VeHaGalil, which became the first senior team from the Druze towns in the Golan Heights to join the Israeli football league system in 2015, will enjoy the experience of a lifetime after being drawn to visit Maccabi Tel Aviv.
MMBE, which plays in local soccer’s fourth division (Liga Bet), is initials for the four towns the club represents: Mas’ade, Majdal Shams, Buq’ata and Ein Qiniyye.
Beersheba, which hasn’t won the cup since 1997, visits Ahi Nazareth of the National League. Beitar Jerusalem goes to Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the second division.