betar jerusalem 88.
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Betar Jerusalem's lead at the top of the Premier League standings is just two points after the club could only manage a 1-1 draw in an entertaining match against Ashdod SC in the Matchday 23 final Sunday night.
A mere two weeks ago, Jerusalem held what seemed like a comfortable, six-point margin, but two consecutive victories by Hapoel Tel Aviv and two successive draws by Betar have quickly cut the gap and, with 10 matches still to be played this season, the title race is once again wide open.
"This was a very tough away match against an excellent team," Betar coach Yossi Mizrahi said. "A draw is a fair result.
"We weren't champions when we led by six points and we've still got a good chance with a two-point lead. The title will be decided in the last few weeks of the season."
Ashdod was in a feverish mood at the start of the match and recorded its first shot on goal after eight minutes. Rahamim Tzekol ran past one Betar defender and hit a shot that was making its way into the corner of the net, but Tomer Ben-Yosef cleared the ball for a corner with his last ditch tackle.
Ashdod continued to dominate and was denied a penalty when referee Liran Liani failed to spot Tzekol being clearly bundled down by defender Yoav Ziv in the 24th minute of the match.
Six minutes later, Ashdod finally took a well deserved lead. Adir Tubol's shot from the edge of the area was barely saved by Betar 'keeper Itzik Korenfein. From the resulting corner, the goalie could do nothing when Yaniv Azran soared higher than anybody else to head the ball into the right corner of the net.
Other than Toto Tamuz, the Betar attack was helpless and it was fortunate not to go into halftime two goals down. In the 38th minute, Shai Holtzman should have done better with his left-footed shot that was easily collected by Korenfein.
A minute before the break, Tzekol surprised the Jerusalem defense, hitting the crossbar directly from a corner kick.
Mizrahi introduced Aviram Bruchian and Milovan Mirosevic after halftime, a move that beared fruit immediately. Betar seized control of the match, dominating possession and began to threaten Ashdod's goal right from the restart.
Mirosevic's set piece in the 59th minute eventually fell to Derek Boateng, who made the most of a poor play by Ashdod's 'keeper Sammy Adjei and headed the ball into an empty net from three meters out.
Both teams pushed forward for a winner following Betar's equalizer and were each unlucky not to get a second goal. In the 60th minute, Ashdod's Idan Shriki hit a superb volley from 25 meters that went just wide and, two minutes later, Tamuz was just as close with his header from Mirosevic's excellent cross.
The match continued to be free-flowing and open, with Mirosevic the next to be denied when his bullet of a shot was tipped over the crossbar by Adjei.
A minute later, Shriki had once again a chance to score a famous winner, but he disappointingly headed the ball over the goal.
Ashdod created the better scoring opportunities as the match progressed and Holtzman was the next to come close. His 67th minute shot was well saved by Korenfein.
Shriki was hoping the third time would be the charm nine minutes later, but again the striker squandered a good chance and Korenfein came to his club's rescue once more.