(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem snapped its five-match winless streak in sensational fashion on Monday night, stunning reigning champion Hapoel Tel Aviv 1-0 at Teddy Stadium.
After failing to score a goal in its last three matches, losing twice, Betar played up to the occasion on Monday and ended Hapoel’s 12-match unbeaten streak a week after Tel Aviv thrashed main title rival Maccabi Haifa 4-1.
Samuel Yeboah scored the only goal of the match from an Aviram Bruchian assist in the 72nd minute, just his third league goal of season and first in over five months, and Hapoel never came close to equalizing in falling to its fourth defeat of the season.
“We were facing an excellent team and we had to raise our level accordingly,” said Betar coach Roni Levy, who won for just the second time in seven matches since replacing Uri Malmilian at the helm.
“It is hard for Betar to understand that it is fighting for its life, but the players have to realize that and they proved tonight that they know what needs to be done.”
Levy knows that Betar cannot get carried away by Monday’s victory.
“We need to remain grounded because we are still much closer to the bottom than we are to the top,” the coach said.
“We need to build on this performance against the best team in the country and beat Hapoel Ramat Gan next week.”
Hapoel had won 10 of its previous 12 matches and looked unbeatable against Haifa last week, but the defeat to Betar leaves it in second position, two points back of the Greens.
“We struggled to find an answer to Betar’s defensive play,” Hapoel assistant coach Yossi Abuksis said. “Betar played with 10 players in defense and it is very difficult to break down such a formation. Nevertheless, we still had our chances and we should have scored.”
Ben Sahar was running Betar’s defense ragged at the start of the match, but Hapoel’s final touch lacked its usual accuracy.
Jerusalem was content on allowing Tel Aviv to dominate the possession with the hope of hitting the visitors on the break, and Betar’s game plan almost paid off seven minutes from the interval.
Yeboah’s header was kept out by an acrobatic Vincent Enyeama save, and despite having the entire goal at his mercy, Steven Cohen could only head the rebound against the woodwork.
Hapoel reached its best chance of the first half a minute from the interval, on a Eran Zahavi volley.
However, nine months after scoring the dramatic goal that gave the Reds the Premier League title with a 2-1 win at Teddy, Zahavi sent the ball high above Ariel Harush’s goal despite being all alone in front of the Betar goal.
Jerusalem began the second half brimming with confidence after holding
its own in the first 45 minutes and it began to venture forward on a
Idan Tal’s bullet from 20 meters out was saved by Enyeama eight minutes
after the break and in the 64th minute Betar was infuriated when it was
not awarded a penalty after Avi Rikan seemed to be tripped up by Omri
Kende in the box.
Moments later, Hapoel almost poured salt on Jerusalem’s wounds, but
substitute Elroei Cohen squandered a great chance, shooting poorly with
only Harush to beat from five meters out.
In the 72nd minute, Betar got the breakthrough.
Aviram Bruchian’s through ball found Yeboah in the box and the Ghanaian
striker made the most of Walid Badier’s defensive mistake and beat
Enyeama from close range.
Hapoel never came close to mounting a comeback and Jerusalem controlled
the remainder of the match on its way to a massive victory.