Hapoel Beersheba remained hot on the heels of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv on Monday night, beating Beitar Jerusalem 2-0 at Vasermil Stadium to close back within four points of the summit of the Premier League standings.
The defending champion increased its margin at the top to seven points with Saturday’s resounding 5-0 victory over Hapoel Acre. However, Beersheba kept pace with Maccabi with a dominant performance on Monday.
Beersheba seized control of the encounter from the first whistle, but had to wait until the 43rd minute to break the deadlock.
Dutch striker Glynor Plet was perfectly placed to head Maor Buzaglo’s corner into the back of the net and the contest was effectively decided when Beitar’s Bryan Jones was sent off in the 52nd minute.
Buzaglo clinched the three points with a characteristic free kick from 20 meters out 10 minutes from time and Beersheba capped another commanding display by maintaining its fifth clean sheet in the past six games.
“We played well from the first moment and were in complete control,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, whose team extended its unbeaten streak to eight matches.
“This was a very important match for us as we want to cement our place in the top six. We want to remain as close as possible to Maccabi and open a margin from the teams below us.”
Beitar failed to win for a sixth straight encounter, with the replacing of coach Eli Cohen with Roni Levy two weeks ago seemingly not having any effect on the side.
“Beersheba is a quality side and this was a tough match,” said Levy.
“Everyone knows that Beitar needs to strengthen its squad, but we also need to get more from the current squad.” Despite dictating the pace from the start, Beersheba struggled to create scoring opportunities against Beitar’s defensive formation.
Plet reached the first real chance of the match in the 24th minute, but his weak effort was saved by Jerusalem ‘keeper Ariel Harush and the Beitar defense desperately cleared the rebound.
Harush had to be alert to save Elyaniv Barda’s powerful shot in the 36th minute, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to keep out Plet’s header.
Starting in just his third match since joining Beersheba, Plet rewarded Levy’s faith, making the most of another excellent set-piece by Buzaglo to score his second goal of the season.
Beersheba should have doubled its advantage just 20 seconds into the second half, only for Dovev Gabai to squander an ideal chance.
Any hope Beitar had of mounting a comeback suffered a devastating blow in the 52nd minute courtesy of referee Roei Reinshriber. Jerusalem midfielder Bryan Jones fouled Plet with a reckless challenge, but Reinshriber’s decision to show him a straight red card was still harsh.
The visitors were always going to struggle with 10 men, and the hosts eventually secured the victory in the 80th minute, with Buzaglo beating Harush with an accurate free kick to clinch Beersheba’s third win in its past four matches.
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