Beitar Jerusalem defender Marchel Heister..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After experiencing a rough patch, Beitar Jerusalem is on a roll once more, beating Maccabi Haifa 2-1 on the road on Saturday night to climb up to first place in the Premier League standings.
Beitar had picked up a mere two points over a three-match stretch before the international break, but has won two straight games since, building on the 4-1 triumph over Maccabi Netanya with Saturday’s victory at Haifa Stadium.
It wasn’t a particularly memorable performance by Beitar, but it got the job done thanks to an excellent display from goalkeeper Boris Kleyman. Itay Shechter gave the visitors the lead in the final minute of the first half and an Allyson own-goal in the 65th minute after excellent build-up by Idan Vered secured the points.
“We were playing a very good opponent, but the players gave their all and got the job done,” said Ben-Zaken.
The undefeated Hapoel Haifa will climb back to the summit on Sunday as long as it doesn’t lose at Bnei Sakhnin.
Saturday’s defeat increased the pressure on Maccabi Haifa coach Guy Luzon, who once more heard fans calling for his head.
“If this was a basketball game we would have won by 20 points,” said Luzon, whose team scored a consolation goal in stoppage time through Stefanos Athanasiadis. “But this is soccer and that is the way it goes.
We reached so many chances but their goalkeeper was excellent. We may have lost, and this might not be a popular thing to say, but we played really well.”
Also Saturday, Hapoel Ra’anana and Ashdod SC both claimed their first victories of the season, while Maccabi Netanya returned to winning ways with Diya Saba on the score-sheet once more, reaching double-figures for the season.
Ra’anana fired coach Guy Levy last week after the team lost all three of its games under his guidance, previously picking up a single point in the first four matches of the season under Dudu Avraham.
Assistant coach Danny Bondarv guided the team on Saturday and got his coaching career in the top flight off to a winning start, with Ra’anana defeating Hapoel Acre 2-0. Snir Shuker came on as a substitute and set up two goals within five minutes, first for Karem Arshid (69) and then for Jordan Faucher (72).
Ashdod picked up a single point in five matches under Reuven Atar before he was sacked. His replacement Amir Turgeman guided the team to a 1-1 draw against Hapoel Ashkelon last week before claiming a 2-1 victory at Bnei Yehuda on Saturday.
Yonatan Cohen had given Bnei Yehuda the lead after 10 minutes, but Gadi Kinde (65) and Blessing Eleke (67) turned the match on its head in three minutes.
Netanya didn’t deserve to lose 4-1 to Beitar last week and bounced back in impressive fashion on Saturday, beating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-1.
Alhassane Keita gave Netanya the lead on eight minutes and Nigel Hasselbaink’s equalizer (66) for Kiryat Shmona lasted only two minutes, with Saba moving the hosts back in front. Keita secured the three points 10 minutes from time.
Also Sunday, Hapoel Ashkelon hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva.
On Monday, the two title favorites meet for the first time this season when Hapoel Beersheba hosts Maccabi Tel Aviv at Turner Stadium.
Both teams are coming off defeats in the Europa League group stage, with Beersheba falling 2-1 to Steaua Bucharest at Turner on Thursday, while Maccabi was thrashed 4-0 at Astana in Kazakhstan.