Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Erik Sabo (right) celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal in last night’s 2-0 victory over Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Nothing seems to be able to derail Beitar Jerusalem at the moment, with a 2-0 victory over Maccabi Netanya on Saturday night taking the team from the capital to the top of the Premier League standings.
Beitar’s players have somehow managed to focus on the action on the field throughout the season despite their club and some of their teammates making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
That was the case once more on Saturday, with the side’s striker Gaetan Varenne revealing on Thursday that he is one of the players allegedly seen sexually exploiting a helpless woman in a video taken several years ago that spread through social media last week.
Varenne, who told his teammates that he is ashamed of his behavior, appears in the video with three of his then teammates at Hapoel Jerusalem.
Police announced that it is looking into the matter, while the Israel Football Association denounced Varenne’s conduct but said that it is legally unable to discipline the player.
Beitar said it had no intention of punishing Varenne and he was in the team’s starting lineup on Saturday.
Jakub Sylvestr netted Beitar’s opener after less than five minutes, with Erik Sabo clinching the three points with a penalty in the 78th minute.
Beitar registered its fifth win in six matches, moving two points ahead of Beersheba, which hosts Bnei Yehuda on Sunday.
Maccabi Tel Aviv is two points further back in third place and welcomes Hapoel Haifa, which is in fourth place, on Sunday.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Haifa eased its relegation woes, moving 10 points clear of the bottom two with a 4-0 victory over last-place Hapoel Acre. Nikita Rukavytsya (19, 50), Sintiyahu Salalik (64) and Mohammed Awad (90) scored for the Greens.
Acre remained nine points from safety after Ashdod SC lost 2-1 to Bnei Sakhnin. Jordan Faucher (8, 19) scored for Sakhnin, with Dan Bitton’s 26th-minute strike proving to be no more than a consolation goal, with the hosts holding on for the win despite Faucher’s sending off eight minutes from time.
Ashdod is just three points above Hapoel Ashkelon and the relegation zone, with the latter drawing 1-1 at Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Shoval Gozlan looked to have given Kiryat Shmona all three points five minutes from time, but Mirko Oremus leveled the score for Ashkelon in the 89th minute.
Maccabi Tel Aviv outplayed Hapoel Haifa on the way to a 4-0 win three weeks ago, but yellow-and-blue coach Jordi Cruyff insisted that result will have little influence on the outcome of Sunday’s showdown.
“We will try to play the game with the same energy we had in the last game against them. That is what we will try to do in every single game that is left,” said Cruyff.
Maccabi has kept six clean sheets over its past seven matches, but other than in the previous showdown against Haifa, has struggled to find the back of the net over the same stretch, scoring just five goals in six games.
Other than in the defeat to Maccabi, Haifa has conceded more than two goals in a match only once this season, with its excellent defensive record one of the main reasons for its surprise season. Nir Klinger’s side has kept five clean sheets over its last seven games, winning each of those matches.
“When you are so close after 26 games it means you are a title contender,” said Cruyff when asked about Haifa’s reluctance to talk up its title hopes. “Some clubs have more pressure than others, but everybody that is fighting there has almost equal chances because five points is really minor.”
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