Beitar Jerusalem striker Nikita Rukavytsya aims to find the back of the net once more tonight when his team faces Maccabi Petah Tikva in the Toto Cup semifinals in Netanya.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Itay Shechter scored one goal and set up another to lead Beitar Jerusalem to a 2-0 win over Hapoel Ra’anana in Netanya on Monday night, further cementing the team’s hold on third place in the Premier League standings.
Beitar moved seven points clear of fourth-place Ra’anana after an inspired Shechter did all the hard work to set up Nikita Rukavytsya’s opener in the 14th minute before securing the three points with a superb solo effort six minutes from time.
After a frustrating year at Maccabi Haifa, Shechter was allowed to leave for Beitar in the January transfer window and has looked like a completely different player since. He started just six of Haifa’s first 19 league matches, failing to score a single goal while being sent off twice. The 28-year-old forward was handed a place in Beitar’s lineup two days after signing with the club and in three matches with the side he has scored one goal and registered three assists.
“I’m back smiling and enjoying soccer,” said a beaming Shechter. “I waited a long time to score again.
I went through a tough period. I didn’t play well and wasn’t enjoying myself. I’m really happy to be at Beitar. It is true I have only been here for three matches, but I felt loved from the first moment and I’m trying to repay the club on the pitch.”
Shechter, who moved to Beitar on loan until the end of the season with the club having an option to extend the deal for another year, will meet his former team when Beitar hosts Haifa at Teddy Stadium next Monday.
“Things didn’t work out in Haifa,” he said. “They gave me many chances, but sometimes things happen in soccer that you can’t explain.”
Even though there are still 14 matches to play until the end of the season, Beitar already looks set to qualify for the Europa League for a second straight year, with Drapic sounding content with third position.
“We knew this match could decide in which direction our season goes because had we lost we would have only been one point in front of Ra’anana,” said Drapic.
“I knew Shechter had the ability and character to succeed here and I always knew that this would be a successful signing.”