Betar Jerusalem took advantage of a Maccabi Petah Tikva team suffering from a European hangover to snatch a 2-1 Premier League victory Sunday night in Petah Tikva.
Betar was on its back foot for the entire first half, and if not for goalkeeper Itzik Kornfein's heroics it would have been out of the game by the interval.
The win puts Betar in eighth place with six points the same as fourth place Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Petah Tikva, which will console itself with last Thursday's win over Partizan Belgrade in the UEFA Cup.
Despite the win, Betar will have to improve or it will find itself fighting relegation by season's end.
Petah Tikva dominated possession from the start, albeit without ever looking entirely convincing.
Betar went ahead thirteen minutes into the game with its first shot on goal. Idan Malichi picked up the ball 25 meters out and released a screamer into the top right corner that left Maccabi goalkeeper Ohad Cohen with no chance.
The goal galvanized the Petah Tikva players and they began to create chances. The team almost equalized immediately but Assi Mashiah's shot went just wide of Kornfein's post.
Petah Tikva's equalizer came in the 29th minute when Kobi Ganon took advantage of a confused Betar defense and slotted the ball in from five meters out.
Maccabi wasn't satisfied with a draw and began immediately searching for a winner. Ishmael Amar and Kfir Edri went close but Kornfein kept Petah Tikva at bay.
The halftime introduction of talented midfielder Maor Melikson improved Betar's play and bore fruit almost immediately. Four minutes after the break Amit Ben-Shushan stole the ball off veteran defender Murad Megamadov and centered the ball to striker Lior Asulin, who scored from five meters out.
The goal stunned Petah Tikva and the fatigue from Thursday night's game and celebrations began to set in.
Maccabi's best chance to level came in the 76th minute when Omer Golan missed from five meters out.
Petah Tikva's last opportunity to salvage a point came three minutes into injury time when Rubil Sarsur shot well from outside the box only for man of the match Kornfein to save Betar once again and secure the victory.
Also Sunday night, wrapping up Matchday 4, reigning league champion Maccabi Haifa defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 1-0. Hapoel 'keeper Shavit Elimelech could not get in front of a 25-meter shot from Idan Tal in the 57th minute.
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