Betar triumphs in long-awaited opener

Jerusalem handles Acre 3-1 in Ramat Gan; Maccabi Haifa stumbles to draw with Hap Petah Tikva.

betar jerusalem 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar jerusalem 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday to cap a disappointing four days for the Greens following their Champions League exit, while Betar Jerusalem finally began its season, claiming a 3-1 victory over Hapoel Acre.
After a lifeless first half at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, which was empty due to Haifa fan trouble last season, Greens coach Elisha Levy introduced captain Yaniv Katan and the hosts soon scored the opener.
Katan sent the ball forward to Shlomi Azulai and he squared it for Weeam Amasha, who had little trouble netting his fifth league goal in two matches.
It seemed all but certain that Haifa would make it two wins out of two when Mohammad Ghadir doubled its advantage in the 75th minute, but the Greens would lose composure and end up dropping two precious points to the bankrupt Petah Tikva.
Or Fishbein made the most of a Tamir Cohen mistake to get Petah Tikva back into the match in the 79th minute and substitute Efraim Bugla equalized three minutes from time to give the visitors their first point of the season, although they still need eight more to erase the nine-point deduction they were handed after going into liquidation.
“This is how it goes in soccer. If you don’t play properly you get punished,” said Levy, who admitted his team suffered from a hangover from Tuesday’s Champions League exit at the hands of KRC Genk.
“We played poorly and lost the lead with a series of mistakes. There is no excuse for this result. We weren’t mentally ready and the result says it all.”
After having its league opener against Hapoel Beersheba postponed, Betar finally got its campaign underway on Saturday, beating Acre 3-1 in Ramat Gan, where it will host its home games until the NIS 90 million renovation of Teddy Stadium is completed in November.
New coach Yuval Naim only had 10 days to work with his team following David Amsalem’s surprise resignation, but Betar showed some promise on Saturday, with 11 of the 14 players involved products of the club’s youth department.
“We have got what we wanted – a young and vibrant team,” said Naim, who will take his side to Beersheba on Tuesday, assuming the security situation in the south of Israel doesn’t deteriorate.
“If we have patience we will be able to build something nice here. This club has had enough of splashing out on players who only come for the money. We played well, but we must remember this was only our first match and we need to settle down and prepare for the game at Beersheba.”
Amit Ben-Shushan sliced Acre’s feeble defense all by himself after less than four minutes, beating three players before firing past Dudu Goresh to give Betar the lead.
Ben-Shushan doubled Jerusalem’s advantage in the 16th minute, and despite Ariel Harush’s blunder which allowed Sintiyahu Salalik to cut the deficit in the 65th minute, Betar clinched the win three minutes later thanks to Evyatar Bruchian’s goal.
Newly-promoted Hapoel Rishon Lezion is the surprise leader following the second Saturday of the season after claiming a 2-1 win at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon, which was playing its first ever match in the top-flight.
Gal Barel left the hosts with 10 men after being sent off in the 37th minute following an unsporting foul on Rif Mesika and Rishon Lezion took the lead in the 60th minute, with Asi Baldut scoring his third goal of the season.
However, Oscar Guerrero put Ramat Hasharon back on level terms five minutes later and was surely feeling confident after Rishon’s Dor Halevi was shown a red card in the 72nd minute.
But it would be Rishon which would claim its second straight victory to start the season after David Gomez headed in the winner in the 80th minute.
Also Saturday, Maccabi Netanya recorded its first win of the season, defeating Ironi Kiryat Shmona 3-1 on the road.
Barak Badash (9) gave the hosts the lead, but Nir Nahum (45, 75) and Mohammed Kalibat (51) turned the match on its head and secured the win for Reuven Atar’s men.
Bnei Sakhnin also got off the mark on Saturday, beating Beersheba 4-3 at home.
Avi Yehiel (4) gave Beersheba the lead, but equalized for Sakhnin with an own goal in the 25th minute.
Siraj Nasar (37) put the visitors back in front, only for Kostadin Hazurov (40) to tie the score before Maharan Radi (53, 56) netted twice for Sakhnin, rendering Ido Eksbard (80) goal meaningless.