Hapoel Tel Aviv thoroughly outplayed Beitar Jerusalem for its fourth Premier League victory in a row on Sunday night, claiming a 3-1 win over its bitter rival in Netanya to climb to third place in the standings.
Croatian midfielder Besart Abdurahimi was responsible for Hapoel’s first two goals, scoring the first himself in the eighth minute before being brought down in the box to set up Omer Damari’s accurate penalty three minutes from halftime.
Substitute Itay Shechter scored Hapoel’s 11th goal in its past three matches in the 60th minute and Bryan Jones’s strike in the 79th minute was of little consolation for Beitar.
Hapoel jumped three places up to third place by extending its longest winning streak of the campaign, while Beitar remained just five points above the relegation zone after failing to win for the 10th time in its past 11 matches.
“We really wanted this win for our fans after what they were made to suffer earlier in the season,” said Hapoel coach Ran Ben-Shimon, whose team hosted the match away from Bloomfield Stadium due to the unruly behavior of its supporters in the recent Tel Aviv derby.
“I’m really disappointed,” noted Beitar boss Roni Levy. “We don’t like to lose, regardless of the opponent we face.”
Abdurahimi ensured Hapoel had a two-goal lead at the break with two sensational solo efforts.
The 23-year-old, who joined the club last summer, looked set to be remembered as one of Hapoel’s biggest flops in the transfer market after failing to make his debut until the end of December.
Abdurahimi arrived at the club suffering from a sprained ankle and when he finally managed to shake the injury he was sidelined once more after sitting on a perfume bottle in the dressing room, which resulted in a deep laceration.
Abdurahimi finally registered his first appearance for the team on December 21, and despite the 4-0 loss at Bnei Sakhnin, he showed plenty of promise.
He started in his third straight match on Sunday and handed Hapoel the advantage after eight minutes. Abdurahimi burst down the right flank before cutting into the center of the field and beating ’keeper Ariel Harush with an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area.
Hapoel dominated the early proceedings and Abdurahimi should have doubled the lead with six minutes to play in the first half, releasing a timid shot from the center of the box that allowed Harush to make an instinctive save.
Nevertheless, he would create his team’s second goal just two minutes later, slicing Beitar’s sluggish defense before being brought down in the box by Harush.
Damari stepped up to convert the spot kick in the 42nd minute, netting a league-best 13th goal of the season.
Abdurahimi was substituted 10 minutes into the second half and it was his replacement, Shechter, who scored Hapoel’s third goal of the night.
Beitar’s defense was caught napping in a free kick and Shechter clinched the three points with an acrobatic strike with 30 minutes still to play.
Jerusalem substitute Jones ensured Beitar at least had a goal to show for its efforts, but that did nothing to minimize the humbling by its arch-rival.
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