Betar Jerusalem recorded a 1-0 victory over reigning Premier League champion Maccabi Haifa at a sold out Teddy Stadium on Sunday night, erasing the memories of the 3-0 drubbing it suffered in Haifa earlier in the season.
In complete contrast to that night at Kiryat Eliezer in December, Betar was hungrier and more complete, controlling the match throughout. French midfielder Jerome Leroy turned in another impressive performance, again showing the quality he displayed in the 3-0 victory over Sakhnin last week.
Congolese midfielder Mazua Ensombo also performed superbly sitting at the back of the midfield and quietly mopping up any trouble, before regularly laying off a simple ball to begin many of the Betar attacks.
It was Ensombo who created the goal for striker Lior Asulin, which turned out to be the match winner. The midfielder floated a perfect ball from outside the penalty box through to Asulin, who headed home with aplomb.
Betar's players knew they needed to take advantage of Hapoel Tel Aviv's final-minute slip-up against Hapoel Kfar Saba on Saturday to claim second place ahead of the Jerusalem side's game against the reds at Bloomfield Stadium next Sunday.
The match was slightly tarnished by the double sending off of Betar defender Tomer Ben-Yosef and Haifa's Rafael Olara after a bust up after the goal.
The result will no doubt please Betar general manager and coach Luis Fernandez, who has been under fire since the State Cup loss to Hakoach Ramat Gan three weeks ago. Fernandez had threatened to resign if he lost by the same scoreline tonight.
The game started at a frantic pace with Haifa's former Betar striker Shlomi Arbitman firing wide of 'keeper Itzik Korenfein after two minutes. A minute later the ball was at the other end for a Betar corner. The Jerusalem side's Spanish forward David Aganzo headed out to Leroy but the Frenchman was unable to get the shot in properly.
Throughout the rest of the first half and most of the game, the yellow-and-black were in control.
Although the Haifa defense, led by center-back and captain Arik Benado, managed to stave off the constant threat from Betar, the goal was one too much for them.
Haifa's Brazilian striker Roberto Colautti was rarely a threat, often getting caught offside and could not even score in the final five minutes of added time.
Betar is two points ahead of archrival Hapoel Tel Aviv and would make the gap even greater with a win next week.
Haifa's loss, its second in a row, will give hope to all the team's in the Premier League that the greens are no longer as invincible as they were for the first 10 matches of the season.
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