Over 400 policemen as well as some 200 security guards will be at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night to keep the peace at Betar Jerusalem’s potentially volatile showdown with Bnei Sakhnin.
The extreme measures are being taken following Betar’s recent struggle against a racist group of its fans, numbering several hundreds, who have been protesting against the signings of Chechen Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev.
On Friday, a fire caused heavy damages to Betar management offices in what according to police was an arson attack by those opposed to the team’s decision to sign two Muslim players.
The off-field distractions have taken their toll on Betar, with the team losing the two matches it has played since owner Arkadi Gaydamak announced the arrival of Kadiyev and Sadayev.
Sakhnin, on the other hand, snapped a four-match win-less streak with a 3-1 victory over Hapoel Haifa last week.
On Saturday, Maccabi Haifa returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion, crushing Hapoel Ramat Hasharon 4-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Goals by Dino Ndlovu (5) and Yaniv Katan (26) put Haifa in the driving seat, and despite Katan’s miss from the penalty spot in the 50th minute, a Shlomi Azulai (88, 91) brace ensured Haifa rebounded in style from last week’s loss to Bnei Yehuda.
“We played well, reached numerous scoring opportunities and didn’t allow Ramat Hasharon to create any chances,” said delighted Haifa coach Arik Benado. “This was an important win after last week’s loss. We are a strong team and that is all that counts.”
Haifa closed to within five points of league-leader Maccabi Tel Aviv, which hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv in a mouthwatering derby showdown at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday night.
Bnei Yehuda climbed up to fourth place with its third consecutive victory on Saturday, recording an entertaining 5-3 win at Maccabi Netanya.
Pedro Galvan netted a hat-trick for Bnei Yehuda (23, 79, 89), with Oz Raly (28) and Adam Hrepka (63) also scoring.
Dragan Ceran (50) and Ali Khatib (65, 90) found the back of the net for Netanya, which lost for the first time in six matches.
Netanya could at least find some consolation in the fact that its rivals in the battle against relegation also all failed to win on Saturday.
Hapoel Ramat Gan was beaten 3-1 at Ironi Kiryat Shmona, with Ramat Gan’s David Manga (29) canceling out Salah Hasarma’s opener (11) before Darko Tasevski (31) and Sintiyahu Salalik (67) clinched the win for the hosts.
Also Saturday, an 87th-minute equalizer by Liran Cohen gave Hapoel Haifa a share of the spoils at Ashdod SC, which took the lead through Stefan Scepovic (68), while Hapoel Beersheba and rockbottom Hapoel Acre drew 0-0.