hapoel tel aviv goalkeeper 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv dealt a blow to Bnei Yehuda's chances of catching runaway league leader Maccabi Haifa, while giving its own championship credentials a massive boost, on Saturday night.
The Reds came away with a narrow but well-deserved 1-0 win against its rival from South Tel Aviv thanks to a first-half goal by the unstoppable Itai Shechter.
Also Saturday, a watching Guma Aguiar failed to provide some much-needed good fortune to Betar, as the Jerusalem side's troubles continued with a 2-0 defeat at Ashdod.
An exquisite curler by former Betar man Moshe Ohayon and an Idan Shrikri diving header saw off Itzhak Schum's men, who have now won just one of their last five matches.
Meanwhile, the battle of the new Petah Tikva coaches ended all square as Dovev Gabai's 79th-minute goal for Freddy David's Maccabi Petah Tikva was canceled out four minutes later by Elnatan Salami's strike for Shavit Elimelech's Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Both sides went down to 10 men either side of the late goals, with Hapoel's Gal Cohen and Maccabi's Nitzan Damari given early baths for an off-the-ball confrontation.
Elsewhere, goals from Almog Cohen, Snir Gueta and Awudu Okocha gave Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya a 3-1 win away at bottom side Maccabi Ahi Nazareth, while Bnei Sakhnin against Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Haifa versus Hapoel Ramat Gan both ended a goal apiece.
Bnei Yehuda 0, Hapoel Tel Aviv 1
Guy Luzon maintained that Saturday night's game at Bloomfield was "pretty much even," but it is hard to believe that the Bnei Yehuda coach wasn't watching a different match, as the 1-0 score-line actually flattered his players, who were quite simply outclassed by a Hapoel side that will travel to Glasgow for Wednesday's Europa League match against Celtic brimming with confidence.
The only goal of the game came in the 12th minute. Bibras Natcho slotted the ball in to Gili Vermut, who was allowed far too much room by the anxious Kfir Edri on the right. The man of the match easily poked the ball back for Shechter to blast the ball past a helpless Dele Aiyenugba.
Hapoel's Brazilian defender Douglas Da Silva then got in a great block to deny Omri Afek an equalizing goal, and the away side soon had a wonderful chance to double its lead.
Vermut slipped in Natcho, who, despite having plenty of time, went for power rather than placement, and Aiyenugba made a magnificent save.
Hapoel was inches away from going 2-0 up at the start of the second-half. Serbian Nemanja Vucicevic chipped a pass through to Maharan Lala, who controlled it sublimely, but Aiyenugba got a vital hand to his shot and turned the ball onto the post.
Bnei Yehuda's Eliran Atar was then whiskers away from getting on the end of Afek's cross, while, at the other end, Vermut then fed Natkho, whose pile-driver was tipped over the bar by Aiyenugba.
Luzon brought on Moshe Biton for a final throw of the dice for Bnei Yehuda, and the substitute almost got on the score sheet 10 minutes from time, but his header from Oz Rali's cross bounced agonizingly past Vincent Enyeama's right-hand post.
It would have been harsh on Gutman's men though, whose sublime passing and stalwart defending proved too much for Luzon's young guns.
Gutman was delighted with the "significant" win, adding that "without a doubt, we'll now travel to Celtic with a victory that will bring us confidence."
"We played cleverly against a good opponent," he said.