barak Itzhaki 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Barak Itzhaki's goal in the third and final minute of stoppage time snatched the points for Betar in a 1-0 home victory against Bnei Yehuda on Saturday night.
In other action on a Saturday of rain-soaked soccer, Maccabi Tel Aviv went down 2-1 at home to Hapoel Petah Tivka, Hapoel Tel Aviv salvaged a point against Maccabi Petah Tikva, while Hakoach beat Ironi in the bottom-of-the-table clash.
After Idan Tal hit the post with a stunning volley on six minutes at Teddy Stadium, fans who had braved the weather could have been forgiven for anticipating an exciting game between two sides known for their free-flowing passing. But alas, things just went downhill after that and the match was a desperate disappointment as both sides failed to live up to expectations.
After Tal's shot, Betar was restricted to long-range efforts with Aviram Bruchian cutting in from the left before blasting the ball just over and Shmuel Kozokin going close with an ambitious 30-meter effort. At the other end, Tomer Hemed tested Tvrtko Kale with a fizzing drive.
Eliran Atar should have taken the lead for the visitors at the beginning of the second-half, but after being played in by an exquisite Pedro Galvan pass, the young striker's shot was too close to Kale. Galvan himself then had a chance after a poor clearance by Betar's Cristian Alvarez, but his shot whizzed past the post.
Ten minutes from time, Oz Rali saved a certain Betar goal with a clearance from an Alvarez header, and Bnei Yehuda stopper Dele Aiyenugba then made an excellent save from Itzhaki, who was set up by Betar substitutes Michael Zandberg and Toto Tamuz.
Just when the match appeared destined for a goalless draw, and with the Betar fans' displeasure becoming increasingly vociferous, Itzhaki collected a Zandberg pass on the left of the box, cut inside and held his nerve to beat Aiyenugba at this near post.
Betar coach Reuven Atar conceded that his side had been well short of its best, but said he was glad the team had finally picked up three points on an off-day.
"We've suffered so much at this stadium by conceding last-minute goals, so it's nice to offset that a bit," he said. "We've lost so many points in games where we've played a lot worse than today."
"We were very static and low on confidence in the first-half, and the second-half was only a slight improvement, but we've finally won while not playing well," he continued, adding that the reigning champion was now aiming to secure a UEFA Cup place.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Hapoel Tel Aviv 1
An injury-time header by substitute Eran Zehavi rescued a point for Hapoel, but Eli Guttman's men would have already been dead and buried if not for some wayward finishing by the hosts.
Although both sides started with attacking line-ups, disciplined defenses were on top in a drab first-half. Nonetheless, Dimitar Telkiyski could have given the visitors the lead, but he miss-kicked a Douglas da Silva cross, and Samuel Yeboah then flew forward and fired a shot against the post. At the other end, an Ismael Amer shot sailed over the bar.
After an acrobatic Vincent Enyeama tipped over a cracking volley by Petah Tikva's Lior Asulin midway through the second period, the away side took the lead 15 minutes from time, albeit in somewhat fortunate fashion.
Boban Grncarov won the ball in the middle and lofted it to Dani Prada on the right. The Petah Tikva midfielder laid the ball off to Amer, whose cross was turned into his own net by an outstretched Elin Topuzakov.
Omer Damari should have immediately doubled Petah Tikva's lead, but shot wide with only the 'keeper to beat, and Tal Ben-Haim then diverted an Asulin cross away from Prada, denying him a wonderful opportunity to seal the victory.
Petah Tikva 'keeper Ohad Cohen made a fabulous, flying save from Zehavi's curing effort before the substitute's last-gasp equalizer.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1, Hapoel Petah Tikva 2
Avi Nimni's men trudged off a rain-soaked Bloomfield Stadium seething with rage on Saturday afternoon after losing to a highly-controversial penalty.
In the last minute of injury time, Hapoel Petah Tikva's young striker Shimon Abuhatzera was scythed down by Maccabi's Croatian 'keeper Dragoslav Jevric. The foul was clearly committed outside the box, but the referee bizarrely awarded the visitors a spot-kick. Ori Uzan calmly slotted home the penalty and Maccabi's Lior Jan was sent off for dissent after the final whistle as he argued with the officials.
Jan had put the hosts ahead in the first-half, heading in a Maor Buzaglo corner, but the lead was wiped out at the start of the second period when Itzik Cohen nodded the ball in from close range after a Junior Visa corner was partially cleared.
Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 1, Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0
Bottom side Hakoach moved just one point behind Ironi after a narrow victory over its fellow strugglers.
Barak Badash scored the only goal of the game in the eleventh minute, capitalizing on some diabolical defending and some shocking goalkeeping by Ironi's Danny Amos.
Bnei Sakhnin 0, Ashdod SC 2
The hosts fell behind in the 27th minute when Ashdod's Czech defender Lubomir Kubica headed in David Revivo's superb cross, and Revivo sealed the victory five minutes from time after linking up well with Dimitar Makriev.
Sakhnin's Ibrahim Bassit had a game to forget, getting sent off for a vicious foul on Yossin Ofir only a minute after coming on as substitute.
Saturday's results: Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Hapoel Tel Aviv 1; Maccabi Tel Aviv 1, Hapoel Petah Tikva 2; Betar Jerusalem 1, Bnei Yehuda 0; Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan 1, Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0; Bnei Sakhnin 0, Ashdod SC 2.
Monday: Maccabi Netanya vs Maccabi Haifa (Live on Channel 10 at 20:50)