(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem moved to the brink of securing another season of Premier League
soccer on Sunday night, beating Maccabi Petah Tikva 3-1 at National Stadium in
Ramat Gan to move seven points clear of the relegation zone.
It was just
four weeks ago that Betar seemed to be in a desperate position after dropping
into the bottom three following a five-match win-less streak in the midst of
which coach Yuval Naim resigned.
There was still little optimism
following the first couple of matches with new coach Eli Cohen, but after going
five games without a goal, Betar snapped Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s 25- match
unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory at Teddy Stadium on March 3, and it has won
every encounter since.
Sunday’s win over fellow-struggler Maccabi Petah
Tikva was Jerusalem’s fourth straight, with the yellow and black suddenly scoring
After finding the back of the net only three times in eight
matches, Betar has scored eight goals in its last three games, netting three
within seven minutes on Sunday.
Neither team came close to scoring in a
dreary first half at Ramat Gan, where Betar was hosting the match due to an
Israel Football Association punishment, but the game exploded into life after
Four minutes into the second half, Amit Ben-Shushan crossed
the ball from the left and Dan Eibinder found the bottom right corner with a
first-time shot from the edge of the area.
However, Betar’s lead only
lasted one minute, with Marwan Kabha sensationally beating six Jerusalem players
and goalkeeper Ariel Harush before sending a weak shot at goal, which was
ultimately turned in by Eibinder.
Just two more minutes passed and Betar
was awarded a penalty.
Haim Megrelashvili’s cross was blocked by Ori
Uzan’s hand and Kobi Moyal stepped up to coolly fire Betar back into the
Jerusalem would clinch the win three minutes later, with Moyal’s
free-kick being squared into the box by Eibinder and Steven Cohen shooting into
an empty net to set off wild celebrations in the stands.
“I told the
players at halftime that they need to open up and push forward,” Betar coach Eli
“We exploded in the second half and clinched the win big
“I said we would stay up in the toughest of times and of course I
still believe that. However, there are still 18 points up for grabs and we can’t
take our foot off the gas.”
On Monday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona can clinch its
first Premier League championship with a home victory over Bnei
Kiryat Shmona currently holds a 16-point lead over second-placed
Hapoel Tel Aviv and a win on Monday will see it open an unassailable gap with
still six matches remaining in the season.