Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Ya’akov Berihon (left) celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal in last night’s 4-1 win over Ashdod SC in Premier League action in Petah Tikva..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
For the first time in six years, Beitar Jerusalem has combined two straight wins to start a Premier League campaign, beating Ashdod SC 4-1 in Petah Tikva on Monday to climb to the top of the standings.
Only three teams have won their first two matches this season, with Beitar joining Hapoel Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin, but leapfrogging them in the table thanks to a superior goal difference.
Interim coach Gili Lavenda guided Beitar once more on Monday, with the search for a full-time replacement for the sacked Sharon Mimer still ongoing.
After stunning Maccabi Tel Aviv in a 3-0 win last week, Beitar came back from a goal down to comfortably beat Ashdod, which played with 10 men from the 23rd minute.
Ashdod had taken the lead through Bulgarian Viktor Genev in the 15th minute, making the most of a mix-up in the Beitar defense. But the match would turn on a missed call by the officiating staff eight minutes later.
Referee Roei Reinshriber and his assistants didn’t spot Beitar’s Itay Shechter in an offside position and allowed play to continue. Moments later, Ashdod’s Nir Bardea denied Shechter a clear attempt at goal by blocking the ball with his hand and he was shown a red card.
Beitar made the most of the helping hand, equalizing in the 34th minute when Brazilian Georginho capitalized on some poor defending.
Yossi Benayoun completed the comeback with a header from a corner 10 minutes into the second half and Ya’akov Berihon (82) ensured there would be no way back for Ashdod before Gaetan Varenne (85) piled the misery on the visitors.
“I’m really happy, but this is just the second week of the season,” said Lavenda. “To be honest we didn’t start the match well and we found ourselves trailing by a goal. The sending off really helped us, but you need to know how to play also when you have a one-man advantage.”
Beitar boss Eli Ohana has spoken to several candidates regarding the opening at head coach, but Lavenda, who was Mimer’s assistant, believes he can do the job on a full-time basis.
“I certainly feel I’m capable of guiding the team until the end of the season, but I’m taking one match at a time,” explained Lavenda. “As long as I’m asked I will be here and do the job.
I’m really enjoying myself and will continue for as long as I’m told.”
Beitar visits Maccabi Petah Tikva in its next match on the weekend of September 9 following the international break. Lavenda feels it is too early to label the team as a championship challenger.
“You need to be consistent to challenge for the title,” he noted.
“This is still an early stage of the season. Beitar was built to challenge at the top but consistency is the key.”
Benayoun echoed Lavenda’s sentiment.
“We have an excellent squad, but we shouldn’t get carried away,” said Benayoun. “The win against Maccabi gave us a lot of confidence, but we saw today that every match is difficult. I think it would be silly for us to talk about winning the championship at the moment. There are many strong teams in the league. If we are in the same position later in the season then we can start thinking in that direction.”
Premier League action will be on a break for almost two weeks, with the Israel national team resuming its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign this weekend. Israel hosts Macedonia on Saturday before visiting Italy next Tuesday.