Beitar back within a single point of first place

Despite not being in top form, Jerusalem blanked Ra’anana to keep pace with leader Beersheba.

March 12, 2018 03:40
3 minute read.
Beitar back within a single point of first place

Beitar Jerusalem Israeli midfielder Idan Vered (right) runs to embrace striker Jakub Sylvestr (left) after the Slovakian netted his team’s second goal in last night’s 2-0 win over Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya.. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)

Goals in both first and second half stoppage time saw Beitar Jerusalem overcome a mediocre display to beat Hapoel Ra’anana 2-0 on Sunday night and move back within a point of Hapoel Beersheba at the summit of the Premier League standings.

Beitar was far from impressive and rode its luck for large periods, but took the lead on the brink of the break courtesy of an own-goal by Ra’anana’s Mohamed Aly Camara. Ra’anana had its chances to equalize in the second half, but couldn’t find the back of the net and a mistake by Camara gifted Jakub Sylvestr a goal in the 93rd minute, securing Beitar’s fifth win from its past six matches.

The victory means Beitar will enter the top-six championship playoffs in second place and will host Maccabi Netanya next weekend. Jerusalem will visit Beersheba the following week.

Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday, with a victory to move the yellow-and-blue within two points of first place.

Beersheba received some good news on Sunday when an MRI on defender Miguel Vitor’s knee didn’t show any new damage to his problematic joint. Vitor, who has played in just six league matches for Beersheba this season, walked off the pitch in tears after re-injuring his right knee in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Bnei Sakhnin, only returning from a three-month absence due to an injury to the same knee last weekend.

Despite the relief that he didn’t suffer a tear as initially feared, it remains to be seen if the Portuguese defender will be able to return to action in the final two months of the campaign.

After winning just three of its past six league matches, Maccabi Tel Aviv is desperate to pick up momentum ahead of the start of the playoffs when it hosts Petah Tikva.

Tel Aviv looked superb in a 4-0 win over Hapoel Haifa two weeks ago, but then could only manage a frustrating goalless deadlock at lowly Ashdod SC, resulting in its fall from first to third place.

“We need to focus on ourselves. We need to try to have a performance like two weeks ago and not like last week,” said coach Jordi Cruyff on Sunday. “We have to just think about ourselves and not listen to anyone else and to try and win our games. The league is still very open. It seems no team is really grabbing it.”

Petah Tikva enters the match on the back of its best run of results this season, winning three of its past five games, including its last two, following the arrival of Yossi Benayoun from Beitar Jerusalem in the January transfer window. After barely playing at Beitar, the 37-year-old midfielder immediately became a fixture in Petah Tikva’s starting lineup and has scored four goals in the past five games.

Petah Tikva’s recent run came too late for it to challenge for a place in the top six, but at least it ensured it doesn’t need to worry about the battle against relegation.

“I don’t think anyone’s been able to stop Benayoun in his career,” said Cruyff, who brought Yossi to Maccabi for one season before letting him go last summer. “I admire him. He’s still there. Changed a club and still wants to play and wants to enjoy himself.”

In Sunday’s other game, Ironi Kiryat Shmona beat rock-bottom Hapoel Acre 3-0 via goals by Sean Weissman (32), Nigel Hasselbaink (36) and Shoval Gozlan (90). Acre played with 10 men from the 45th minute following Ben Reichert’s sending off.

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