Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Hen Ezra scored his team's second goal in last night's 3-2 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem closed back to within four points of Hapoel Beersheba and the summit of the Premier League standings on Monday night, claiming a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Hapoel Haifa.
Hen Ezra’s goal in the 22nd minute extended Beitar’s club record scoring streak to 37 league matches, a run that began in April 2017.
Beitar needs to find the back of the net in its next two games to equal Maccabi Haifa’s all-time record in Israeli soccer.
Beitar visits Maccabi Netanya next Monday before hosting Beersheba five days later in what could prove to be the title decider. Each team will only have three games to play following that showdown.
Beitar lived dangerously for large periods in Monday’s showdown, which was a preview of the State Cup final that will be played between the teams at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on May 9. But Jerusalem managed to maintain its first clean sheet in four games to take all three points.
Haifa hit the woodwork on two occasions, with Beitar defender Tal Kahila responsible for denying the hosts the opener in the 20th minute when he cleared the ball off the line with a header against the crossbar.
Haifa was denied by the upright once more in the 77th minute, with Beitar goalkeeper Boris Kleyman missing the ball and defender Micky Siroshtein fortunate not to score an own goal when the ball hit him and struck the post.
The defeat leaves Haifa in fourth place, one point behind Maccabi Tel Aviv and five points in front of Maccabi Netanya.
Earlier Monday, Ashdod SC squandered a golden opportunity to take a significant step towards securing its top-flight status, losing 1-0 to Hapoel Ra’anana. Ben Vahaba scored the only goal of the match in the 26th minute, with just 300 fans at the stadium in Netanya. Ashdod remains four points clear of Hapoel Ashkelon and the relegation zone, with each team having three matches left to play and nine points to play for.
Ashdod can officially secure its survival with a home win over Ashkelon next Sunday, but a win for the latter would reduce the gap to just a single point ahead of the final two matches.
“The reality is that we didn’t win, but we still have a four point gap,” said Ashdod coach Amir Turgeman. “We didn’t play well enough and weren’t aggressive enough. This is very disappointing, but I’m certain that we will get the job done against Ashkelon. I trust my players and I’m convinced we will be ready for that match.”
Ashdod’s loss to Ra’anana means rock-bottom Hapoel Acre, which is eight points from safety, has also yet to be officially relegated. Acre has to beat Maccabi Petah Tikva on Saturday and for Ashkelon to win in Ashdod to avoid demotion to the National League in the upcoming weekend.
“We are always aspiring to play better, but we are happy with the points as this continues our superb second half of the season,” said Ra’anana coach Menahem Koretzki. “We secured our survival with four matches to play and that is a superb achievement when you consider our situation at the midway point of the campaign.”