(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem scored a controversial goal in the 90th minute to defeat Hapoel Kfar Saba 2-1 in a tense Premier League match at Teddy Stadium on Saturday night.
With the match heading toward a 1-1 draw, Betar's winner came while a Kfar Saba player was apparently lying injured on the field. Hapoel coach Eli Ohana protested, but in vain.
"I am very disappointed by the behavior of the Betar players," Ohana said. "I expect all sportsmen to act like professionals and clear the ball when an opponent is awaiting medical attention. I am proud of our performance and I think we can go back home with our heads up. My lads played a good match today."
Betar coach Yossi Mizrahi decided to start Amit Ben-Shushan in place of Toto Tamuz, who was dealing with a minor leg injury. Jerusalem failed to impress in attack without Tamuz, but managed to take the lead in the 30th minute thanks to a sheer moment of brilliance by Derek Boateng.
Brazilian winger Kleber Schwenk spun past his marker and lofted the ball into the box. Kfar Saba's defense cleared the ball, but didn't take Boateng into consideration. The Ghanaian midfielder lined up perfectly and dispatched the ball into the back of the net from 30 meters away.
Betar piled on the pressure in the second half in search of a second goal but Jose Duarte stunned the Teddy crowd in the 83rd minute. Kfar Saba played a long ball towards the Brazilian, who sent the ball past Betar 'keeper Itzik Korenfein.
Betar sent all of its players into the box looking for the winner.
With Guillermo Israilevich lying injured on the ground in the penalty area, Betar kept on playing. Kfar Saba veteran Ofer Talker conceded a miserable own goal while trying to clear the ball.
Hapoel Tel Aviv 2,Maccabi Petah Tikva 2
Yossi Abuksis was finally back in Tel Aviv's starting 11 after passing his pre-game fitness test and being cleared by the team physicians just minutes before the encounter.
Despite the Hapoel captain's return to action, the "Luzons" drew first blood in the 10 minute after a well crafted counterattack.
Naor Peser was active on the left flank for Petah Tikva and his hard work soon paid off. The forward made a swift run in midfield after making a strong tackle and crossed the ball into Hapoel's box. Liran Cohen lost his defender and applied a clinical finish to give Petah Tikva the early lead.
Tel Aviv found its way back into the contest by utilizing a mix-up by the Petah Tikva defense in the 27th minute. Salim Toama fed a seeming harmless ball into Maccabi's area, but Maccabi's defenders failed to clear the ball and Ibazito Ogabuna tapped it in.
Toama also gave Tel Aviv the lead in the 73rd minute. The swift winger performed his free kick to perfection and left Ohad Cohen with no chance of stopping the ball.
Petah Tikva forward Omer Golan equalized with a close range header in the 86th minute.
"A very physical and tactical game," Abuksis said after the disappointing draw. "We put on a good display today and I think we deserved all three points.
"I'm not happy with the draw. But I do think there is still a lot of time to recover lost ground and our championship hopes are still alive."
Maccabi Tel Aviv takes on defending champion Maccabi Haifa Sunday night at Bloomfield Stadium hoping to cut into Betar's seven-point lead at the top of the standings. Tel Aviv may have to manage without leading goalscorer Avi Nimni, who is suffering from a nagging injury and is doubtful.