Beitar Jerusalem capped its return to Teddy Stadium in memorable fashion on Monday night, claiming a sweet 1-0 victory over bitter-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv in Premier League action.
Beitar was forced to host its first two home matches of the season outside Jerusalem due to the damage caused to the Teddy pitch during the Maccabiah this past summer.
It lost both those games and looked to be heading to another defeat on Monday, with Beitar goalkeeper Ariel Haursh almost singlehandedly keeping his team in the match in the first half.
The 30,000 fans, minus the Hapoel contingent, that packed the renovated Teddy then got what they were hoping in the 84th minute, with Nisso Kapiloto netting Beitar’s winner to take the team up to fourth place in the standings.
Almost all the talk prior to the match focused on non-sporting matters like owner Eli Tabib’s reunion with Hapoel fans and the 700 policemen and stewards required to keep the peace at the stadium.
The kickoff only finally arrived after a minute’s silence for Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was cut short due to a lack of respect by some of the fans in attendance and it was Hapoel which dominated the proceedings.
Itay Shechter found himself with only Harush to beat in the ninth minute, but the ‘keeper stood his ground and blocked the striker’s shot.
Harush was called into action yet again two minutes later, this time sparing the blushes of teammate Andres Tunez, who would have scored an own goal had the goalie not acrobatically got his hand to the ball.
Omer Damari was the next to test Harush, who had to be at his flexible best yet again to keep out Roei Gordana’s longrange effort in the 20th minute.
Beitar failed to pressure Hapoel and was on the ropes for much of the first half.
But Tel Aviv couldn’t make its dominance count, lacking cutting edge in front of goal.
Shechter was the main culprit, already rounding Harush in the 26th minute, only to fail to place his shot on target.
The Israel striker squandered two more chances before the end of the first half, much to the frustration of his coach Ran Ben-Shimon, who must have been asking himself what else his team needed to do to find the back of the net.
Beitar coach Eli Cohen sent Bryan Jones onto the pitch in place of Teteh Bangura after the break and his tactical changes helped contain Hapoel in the second half.
After an extremely busy first 45 minutes, Harush was rarely threatened in the second half and the showdown seemed set to end in a goalless deadlock with Beitar also scarcely venturing forward.
However, Beitar only needed one good chance to claim all three points. Shortly after coming on as a substitute, David Revivo provided a pin-point cross and defender Kapiloto scored the winner with a striker’s finish.