Maccabi Netanya forward Didier Kougbenya celebrates after scoring the winner in a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Beersheba in Premier League action..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem’s Premier League title hopes were handed a painful blow on Monday night with a 2-1 defeat to Maccabi Netanya.
Beitar could have moved up to second place and closed back to within a single point of the summit. But its loss leaves it four points back of Hapoel Beersheba, while Netanya climbed up to fifth place after snapping a four-match winless streak.
Jerusalem had an ideal opportunity to take the lead after just five minutes, but Claudemir’s penalty was saved by Danny Amos and Netanya made the breakthrough a minute later. Eran Levy caught Beitar goalkeeper Boris Kleyman off-guard with his powerful effort from 25 meters out.
Netanya’s German defender Tim Heubach headed in his team’s second goal in the 34th minute after a Levy corner and Beitar couldn’t fight back.
Jerusalem was left with 10 men after Hen Ezra was sent off in the 78th minute, and while Gaetan Varenne’s strike in the 89th minute ensured the team has still scored in every match this season, it proved to be of little consolation for Beitar.
“We needed this win to remain in the championship playoff picture,” said Netanya coach Slobodan Drapic. “The guys deserve a lot of credit for defeating a team that is challenging for the championship.
If we continue to play like this we shouldn’t have a problem qualifying for the playoffs.”
Beitar was playing for the first time since Yossi Benayoun announced he was leaving the club. The veteran midfielder’s lack of playing time combined with his popularity among the fans caused a constant distraction at the club, with Benayoun’s already small role completely vanishing over recent months after he got on the wrong side of club owner Eli Tabib. After he didn’t even play a single minute in the State Cup round-of-16 win over Hapoel Marmorek last Thursday in a match which saw Beitar field several second- string players, it became clear that Benayoun no longer had a future at the club and he bid an emotional farewell to his teammates and the fans in Saturday’s training session.
The 37-year-old wants to continue and play at least until the end of this season and his options look to be very limited, with the January transfer window to come to a close on Wednesday. After Hapoel Haifa decided to prioritize the signing of Gili Vermouth from Maccabi Haifa, a deal which was completed on Monday, Maccabi Petah Tikva looks to be the favorite to sign Benayoun.
Petah Tikva, which is in eighth place, is guided by Sharon Mimer, who was the Beitar coach when Benayoun was signed last summer.
Elsewhere, Ahmed Abed left Ironi Kiryat Shmona for Giresunspor of the Turkish second division. Abed was set to leave Kiryat Shmona for free next summer as he was in the last year of his contract. By allowing him to join Giresunspor, Kiryat Shmona at least ensured it received 100,000 euros in compensation.
Young midfielder Or Inbrum is returning to Ashdod SC just seven months after signing with Belgian club KAA Gent. Gent surprisingly paid a fee estimated at 1.6 million euro for his services, but he never settled at the club, and after also barely featuring during a loan stay at NK Maribor in Slovenia, he is coming back to Ashdod, also on loan.