betar jerusalem 298.88.
(photo credit: www.beitar-jerusalem.net)
Betar Jerusalem went top of the Israeli Premier League table on Sunday night after a 3-2 win over Hapoel Kfar Saba at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
However, reigning champion Maccabi Haifa remains within striking distance of first place after defeating Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0 earlier in the day.
Betar totally outclassed Kfar Saba for most of the match and, despite conceding two goals after going down to ten men in the 67th minute, still held on for all three points.
Hapoel showed nothing of the ability that won it the first two games of the season and paid the price for playing its home match away from Kfar Saba.
After a relatively calm first 18 minutes in Ramat Gan, Betar took the lead thanks to Joao Pinto's first goal since joining the team.
The Kfar Saba defense couldn't clear a Fabrice Fernandes free kick and Pinto easily headed the ball into the empty net.
Thirteen minutes later Jerusalem had already doubled its lead. Fernandes took a corner kick which was headed into goal by defender Tomer Ben Yosef.
Hapoel was helpless in the first half and never really threatened Itzik Kornfein's goal.
Eleven minutes after half time Betar went three goals up after Michael Zandberg squared the ball for Pinto who had no trouble rolling the ball into an empty goal.
Jerusalem seemed to be cruising to victory but in the 67th minute an awful back pass by Yoav Ziv brought Kfar Saba back into the match. Avi Knafo picked up the pass and was brought down by Betar defender Roni Gafni who received a red card for his foul.
Knafo hit the post with his penalty kick but Abu Bakri controlled the rebound and scored off Shimon Gershon's foot.
The goal injected life into Kfar Saba and the team pushed forward in search of more goals. Douglas De Silva and Oren Nissim should have scored for Hapoel in the last 20 minutes but their poor finishing cost the team dearly.
Shalev Menashe managed to get another goal back for Kfar Saba in the 94th minute but it was no more than a consolation as the final whistle sounded seconds later and Betar won the match.
Following the game, Betar goalkeeper Kornfein said: "We made a few mistakes in the last couple of minutes but until the 80th minute we were in control of the game. We were under pressure but what is important is that we won."
Maccabi Petah Tikva 0 Maccabi Haifa 1
Haifa took all three points in Petah Tikva earlier in the day despite not playing anywhere near its potential.
An 18th minute solo goal by Yaniv Katan was enough to give Haifa its second straight win and to keep it three points away from the top of the table.
Petah Tikva dominated the play in the second half but failed to convert its possession into goals and lost for the first time this season.
"We played very well today, better than our opponent," Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon said after the match. We should have won today by two or three goals. We controlled the match in the second half."
Despite playing well below par, Haifa coach Roni Levy was pleased that his team managed to win a mere three days after the disappointing 1-1 draw in the first leg of the first round of the UEFA Cup against Litex Lovech.
"It was difficult to win because we played against a very organized team," Levy stressed after the match. "We have a good team and I'm sure we will improve with time."
Haifa began the match well and scored with its first shot on goal. Katan picked up the ball 35 meters from goal and after advancing to the edge of the area hit a powerful shot that left Petah Tikva keeper Ohad Cohen helpless.
Haifa was the better side in the first half and should have doubled its lead seven minutes from half time. Gustavo Boccoli breezed past the Petah Tikva defense but his shot went just wide of the left post.
The hosts seized control of the match at the start of the second half and began to threaten Nir Davidovitch's goal.
Five minutes after the interval Andre Kaldiera almost equalized when his header was only just saved by Davidovich.
Petah Tikva continued to press forward but was unable to penetrate the Haifa defense and the champions left with all three points.