Ben-Shushan Beitar 224.8.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem is back to its winning ways, humbling Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1 in Saturday evening's tricky away fixture. The yellow-and-black now enjoys a five-point lead over second placed Bnei Sakhnin and a six-point lead over Maccabi Netanya, which still has a game in hand.
Yitzhak Shum had to field a make-shift lineup as two of his key starters were suffering from injuries. But despite the absence of Barak Yitzhaki and Brazilian striker Romulo, the defending champion grinded out a 2-1 win.
"I knew it was going to be a tough game," a relieved Shum said in a post-game interview. "We played well at the start of the second half, but I'm slightly disappointed with the overall effort. We were missing some starters today, but the replacements did a good job."
Maccabi Haifa kept its winning streak alive after managing a marginal 1-0 win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona at the Kiryat Eliezer stadium. Omri Afek capped his solid debut with a dramatic late winner. Hapoel Tel Aviv lost 0-1 to Bnei Sakhnin and is now deep in the relegation zone.
Ashdod SC broke its three-game losing streak with a stunning 3-0 whitewash of Bnei Yehuda. Nir Nahum (9), Patrick Suffo (28) and Idan Shriki (50) punished the Oranges, who failed to put up a fight.
Maccabi Herzliya beat Hapoel Kfar Saba 3-2 in an intriguing Hasharon derby. Ben Luz gave Kfar Saba the lead in the 14th minute, but Shalev Menashe (37), Mahran Radi (46) and Omer Buksenboim (56) completed the comeback. Samuel Yeboah netted Kfar Saba's second in the 61st minute.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will host Reuven Atar's Maccabi Netanya in tonight's televised game. The yellow-and-blue is currently in last place with one league point and another loss will have critics raising the possibility of an early struggle against relegation.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Betar Jerusalem 2
Betar Jerusalem failed to impress in the opening stages of the encounter, it was the "Luzon's" who pressed ahead looking to draw first blood. The hard work paid off in the 14th minute, with Omer Golan scoring with a close-range header after a mix-up in the Betar defense.
The visitors failed to impress in the first half, but won a penalty in the 37th minute when Amit Ben-Shushan was fouled in the box. Shimon Gershon missed the spot kick, but the yellow-and-black leveled the score in the 45th minute, thanks to a Ben-Shushan strike.
Petah Tikva looked out of sorts after the halftime break and crumbled under the pressure of Yitzhak Shum's side. The yellow-and-black dominated the proceedings and completed the comeback in the 62nd minute when Ben-Shushan scored off a corner and completed his brace.
"I'm disappointed with the result, but not with our performance," Petah Tikva coach Yossi Mizrahi said after the loss. "Betar Jerusalem is the best team in Israel and you have to make the most of your chances. A few lapses in our concentration made the difference today."
Maccabi Haifa 1, Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0
Haifa coach Roni Levy decided to start out-of-form Yaniv Katan, despite reports that he was going to relieve the striker of the captaincy. Kiryat Shmona showed no signs of inferiority, albeit by playing a man-behind-the-ball formation.
Omri Afek made his debut for the Greens in the second half, after coming on as a substitute in the 49th minute. Their ultra-offensive formation started paying dividends after the 70th minute, when Shmona's Abas Suan received his second yellow card and was sent off.
With a draw in the air and just five minutes before full-time, Haifa delivered the killer blow. Katan received the ball in midfield and located an unmarked Afek on the right flank. The new signing dribbled into the box and delivered the winner with a crisply struck shot.
Bnei Sakhnin 1, Hapoel Tel Aviv 0
Sakhnin proved that the Doha stadium is a tough place for away teams, as it dominated the opening stages of the game. With a capacity 5,000 strong crowd in the stands, the hosts came close to taking the lead in the 41st minute, but Galil Ben Sha'anan produced a mesmerizing save.
The hosts kept the pressure on Tel Aviv in the second half, enjoying another inspiring performance by playmaker Maor Buzaglo. Guy Luzon tried to change the momentum of the game and inserted flamboyant striker Lior Asulin in the 65th minute, but the hosts had other plans.
Hamed Ganaim struck a piledriver towards the Tel Aviv goal in the 70th minute which Ben Sha'anan fisted away. But Buzaglo sneaked past the visitor's defense and jabbed in the rebound to give his side the lead. Luzon's side failed to find the equalizer in the remaining minutes.
Hapoel Katamon wins on debut
Newly created team Hapoel Katamon came back from a goal down to win its first ever game 2-1 against Nachalat Yehuda in Liga Aleph (the Israeli fourth division) on Friday afternoon. Former Londoner Uri Warner scored twice for the team that was created over the summer by fans of Hapoel Jerusalem, who were disgruntled with the way the club was being run. More than 2,500 supporters turned out to see the game at Hebrew University's Givat Ram stadium in Jerusalem.
Jeremy Last contributed to this report.