Beitar Jerusalem striker Zarko Korac.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Beitar Jerusalem extended its unbeaten start to the Premier League season on Monday night with a sweet 2-0 victory over arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium.
After winning just one and drawing three of its first four matches, Beitar picked up three important points to remain within touching distance of the leading pack, climbing up to fourth place with nine points.
Both teams lacked initiative in the first half and the first goal was always going to be crucial. The breakthrough arrived in the 60th minute courtesy of an awful mistake by Hapoel goalkeeper Danny Amos.
The ’keeper received the ball from Sari Falah but fluffed his pass back to the defender, allowing Shlomi Azulay to collect the ball and square it for Zarko Korac, who made no mistake from close range.
Beitar clinched the victory in the 71st minute, with Hanan Maman tucking the ball into an empty net after Amos parried a Korac header.
Israel Zaguri missed a chance to hand Hapoel a lifeline in the 86th minute, with Beitar stopper Boris Klayman saving his penalty.
“This is a very important win for our fans,” said Beitar coach Menahem Koretzki, who issued an apology earlier in the day after a recording of him cursing a fan surfaced.
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“Hapoel barely reached any chances and I am very proud of my players.”
Hapoel coach Asi Domb was understandably disappointed after his team dropped to its second defeat of the season.
“We made mistakes and they made the most of them,” he explained.
Premier League action will continue on Tuesday, with the struggling Maccabi Haifa looking to break out of its slump when it visits Hapoel Beersheba.
Haifa has just six points from its first five matches after suffering its third defeat of the season on Saturday, losing 2-0 at home to Hapoel Ra’anana. For a fourth straight season, Haifa has won no more than two of its first five games and it is already in danger of losing touch of the title race.
Haifa’s biggest problem has been its defensive play, with the Greens conceding nine goals so far, their worst tally over their first five contests since the 1992/93 season.
Haifa coach Aleksandar Stanojevic admitted his team was in a crisis following the defeat to Ra’anana and he will hope the return of the suspended Eyal Meshumar, Edin Cocalic and Mohammadou Idrissou will make the difference on Tuesday.
Haifa will, however, still be without the injured Yossi Benayoun, who is targeting a return in Saturday’s match against Maccabi Petah Tikva.
“Our problem is a mental one and it makes no difference who the coach is. For the past three years the problem has been mental,” Stanojevic told his players.
“After we concede a goal, players don’t take responsibility. I always check where I might have made a mistake and each player should also look at himself. This problem will only be solved if you are responsible enough and play like men. Go to Beersheba and give your all. If you do that and don’t win I will shoulder all the responsibility.”
Beersheba enters the match in third place, two points behind leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona, and coach Elisha Levy, who guided Haifa between 2008 and 2012, does not want his team to settle for anything other than a win on Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona will be aiming to make it five straight wins when it visits Bnei Sakhnin, while Hapoel Haifa hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva.
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