(photo credit: ASAF KLIGER)
Beitar Jerusalem’s promising start to the season looks like a distant memory after it dropped to its third consecutive Premier League defeat on Monday night, losing 3-2 to Maccabi Petah Tikva at Teddy Stadium.
Beitar had gone unbeaten in its first seven matches of the campaign, defeating Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv while drawing with the top two, Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Hapoel Beersheba.
However, Jerusalem has lost its way in recent weeks and currently finds itself just three points above the bottom two and the relegation zone.
Petah Tikva, which climbed up to fifth place, took the lead after less than four minutes, with Joachim Mununga heading the visitors in front.
The Congolese forward doubled the advantage from close range in the 32nd minute, after Naor Pesser did all the hard work in the build-up.
Beitar got back in the match four minutes later, thanks to Itzik Cohen’s strike, but Oz Peretz ensured Petah Tikva left with all three points with his goal in the 90th minute, before Zarko Korac scored for Beitar from the penalty spot with the final kick of the night.
“Matters aren’t looking good, but I believe in the players,” said Beitar coach Menahem Koretzki, who was booed off the pitch at the final whistle. “I understand the supporters, but we must calm matters and take the pressure off the players. Clearly, I am the one to blame, but I believe I can lead the team forward.”
Premier League action continues on Tuesday with two more matches, including an intriguing showdown between league-leader Ironi Kiryat Shmona and second-place Hapoel Beersheba.
Beersheba can leapfrog into first place with a win up North, but Kiryat Shmona is still undefeated this season, although it was held to a disappointing goalless deadlock by Hapoel Ra’anana on Saturday.
Kiryat Shmona has picked up 13 of a possible 15 points at home this season, beating two-time defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 last week. Barak Bachar’s men haven’t lost at home since January.
Beersheba thrashed Maccabi Netanya 4-0 three days ago, but could be without star midfielder Maor Melikson on Tuesday due to a thigh injury.
“We will have to be at our best to win this match, “said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy.
Also Tuesday, Hapoel Haifa hosts Hapoel Ra’anana.