Beitar Jerusalem striker Itay Shechter (right) celebrates after scoring the winner in last night’s 1-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv squandered a golden opportunity to breathe life into the Premier League title race on Monday night, losing 1-0 to Beitar Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium to remain eight points back of leader Hapoel Beersheba.
Beersheba’s winless streak in the league reached three matches with Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Bnei Sakhnin. But Maccabi has cut the gap from the top by just two points over the past three games, picking up only four of a possible nine points.
In fact, Maccabi has won just three of its past 10 league matches and looked lost for ideas yet again in another apathetic performance at Teddy.
Itay Shechter scored the only goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, making the most of a lapse by Maccabi defender Egor Filipenko and referee Liran Liani. Shechter was in an offside position when he received the ball in the box, but Liani’s whistle remained silent and Filipenko brought him down with a reckless tackle.
Beitar climbed up to sixth place with the victory, snapping a three-match winless streak and recording only its third win in the last 10 matches.
Beitar entered the game as close to the relegation zone (six points) as it was to Ironi Kiryat Shmona in fifth place, with coach Ran Ben-Shimon under intense pressure. However, the three points on Monday should keep him in his job for the time being, with Beitar having an ideal opportunity to finally pick up some significant momentum in the coming weeks, facing the league’s four bottom sides over its next five matches.
“This feels really good,” said Ben-Shimon.
“We needed a win like this in which we showed our character even though we didn’t play very well. We will play a lot better than this, but this win was very important for our confidence. We had some excellent games earlier in the season in which we didn’t win so it was significant to take three points tonight.”
Beersheba received further good news earlier Monday when an MRI reveled that defender Miguel Vitor doesn’t require surgery to repair damage to his knee ligaments.
Vitor, who has become one of the team’s most important players since joining last summer, is still expected to be out for over two months, meaning he will miss the Europa League round of 32 matches against Besiktas.
Beersheba hosts Maccabi Tzur Shalom of the third division in the last 32 of the State Cup on Thursday, with its next opportunity to get its league campaign back on track coming against Maccabi Haifa at Turner Stadium next Tuesday.
“We need to convert our chances and show more composure in defense,” said Beersheba defender Shir Tzedek. “We haven’t even reached the halfway point of the league campaign and we still have plenty to improve. We are under pressure ahead of every match, but we are trying to channel it in the right direction. Everything is in control and we know exactly what we are trying to do.”