Beitar Jerusalem claimed its first Premier League victory over Maccabi Haifa in six years on Sunday night, winning 1-0 at Teddy Stadium to significantly ease its relegation worries.
Aviram Bruchian scored the only goal of the mediocre match with a penalty in the 65th minute, with referee Roei Reinshriber pointing to the spot after Haifa defender Sari Falah blocked a Bruchian free kick with his hand.
Alon Turgeman looked to have snatched a point for the Greens when he found the back of the net in the second minute of stoppage time, only for Reinshriber to cut short Haifa’s celebrations after ruling that Turgeman had controlled the ball with the help of his hand.
Beitar moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone thanks to Sunday’s win, while Haifa remained in fourth place, tied on 36 points with Ironi Kiryat Shmona in third position.
“This was a very important win against a very strong opponent,” said Beitar coach Roni Levy. “We are improving with every week and it was very important for us to put some distance between ourselves and the relegation zone.”
Earlier Sunday, Beitar was drawn to visit Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the State Cup quarterfinals. That will be the only all-Premier League showdown in the last eight, with Hapoel Beersheba once more handed an opponent from a lower division, Maccabi Petah Tikva paired with Ma’alot-Tarshiha of the fourth division and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon drawn to visit the National League’s runaway leader Maccabi Netanya.
Beersheba, which will look to move back within six points of Maccabi Tel Aviv at the top of the league standings when it hosts Bnei Sakhnin on Monday, isn’t expected to encounter too much trouble when it visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion of the National League. Beersheba will be playing in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003 when it went on to reach the final. Beersheba’s one and only cup triumph came in 1997.
Ma’alot-Tarshiha became just the second team ever from the fourth tier or lower to reach the last eight of the cup after beating Hapoel Petah Tikva of the National League 2-1 last week.
The quarterfinals will be held on March 25 and 26.