(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
A stoppage-time header from Israeli international Amit Ben-Shushan gave Betar Jerusalem a dramatic 2-1 victory over arch rival Hapoel Tel Aviv in a Premier League match at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night.
Betar looked dead and buried for most of the second half after Ivan Jolic had put the visitors ahead in the 37th minute. But 10 minutes before the end, defender Omri Afek headed in an equalizer to rouse the near-capacity 17,000 crowd.
And there was a party atmosphere at the end of the game after Betar snatched victory right at the end.
It was a sweet ending for Betar's Argentinian manager, Ossie Ardiles, who has consistently been under pressure since the yellow and black were knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Dinamo Bucharest last month, as well as Betar defender Shimon Gershon, who was playing against his former club.
The team from the capital now has a perfect start to the season with six points from two league matches, having won by the same result against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium two weeks ago and shares top spot in the standings with Eli Ohana's Hapoel Kfar Saba.
The result piles on the pressure on Hapoel coach Yitzhak Schum, who has had a difficult two weeks following public disputes with the club's management.
Second-half substitutes Ben-Shushan and Toto Tamuz were the stars for the hosts, while goal scorer Jolic had the best opportunities for Tel Aviv.
The game began at a slow pace with few chances for both sides. Although the home team enjoyed the majority of the possession, it was unable to convert this into real goal scoring chances.
Hapoel nearly drew first blood in the second minute when former Betar right back Tomer Haliva crossed for Jolic, but his shot went wide.
Betar then began dialling up the pressure and on eight minutes, a shot by Brazilian Pinto went close but was pushed wide by Hapoel 'keeper Shavit Elimelech.
The Hapoel goal came completely against the run of play. Betar's Frenchman, Fabrice Fernandes, had been given a yellow card for a foul on Elyaniv Barda. The resulting free kick from Salim Toema landed on the head of Jolic, who powered the ball in past a hapless Betar 'keeper Itzik Kornfein.
The pressure was now on Betar and a minute later, it was nearly 2-0 when Barda's shot was parried by Kornfein into the path of Baruch Dego, but he couldn't score.
In the second half, Tamuz and Ben-Shushan, who replaced Pinto and the ineffective Barak Yitzhaki, created chances for the hosts. But it wasn't until the 81st minute when a cross by Michael Zandberg was headed in by Afek for the equalizer.
The Teddy crowd then came alive, urging the yellow-and-black forward, and two minutes into stoppage time, Ben-Shushan headed in from a Fernandes corner.
The goalscorer was sent off for a second yellow card after removing his jersey during the celebrations and Betar had to soak up the pressure in the final minutes, including a Dego header saved by Kornfein.
But it was too little, too late by Hapoel, which now has only one point from its first two matches.