betar real 224 88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
South American strikers have been ten a penny at Betar Jerusalem in recent years. But, while the likes of Joano Pinto, Christian Fabiani, Kleber Schwenk and Tuto Roschel came and went in quick succession without making any semblance of an impact, coach Itzhak Schum's summer signing Romulo may actually be the real deal.
The Brazilian scored his fifth and sixth league goals of the season in the champion's 5-0 drubbing of Ashdod SC on Sunday night and left the field to a standing ovation. While Ashdod had started brightly and Alain Masudi looked good for much of the match, goals from Aviram Bruchian, Idan Tal and Michael Zandberg took all the wind from the visiting side's sails.
Until his substitution in the 74th minute when he was replaced by fan favorite Toto Tamuz, Romulo had been the best player on the pitch. He was impressive in his skills and hard work and deserved his goals.
Both the result and the performance sent a clear message to Betar's championship challengers - the team from the capital has no intention of giving up its league crown easily. Betar kept its place at the top of the league standings and it will take a Herculean effort to displace it.
Schum is one of the most experienced coaches in Israel and this showed with his decision to demote Idan Tal to the bench and replace him in the center of midfield with goal scorer Aviram Bruchian.
Earlier on Sunday, Omri Afek and Eliran Danin completed their moves away from Betar, leaving the reigning champion for Maccabi Haifa. Afek, who joined Jerusalem three years ago, signed a three year contract, with Danin joining on a loan deal, which Haifa can make permanent at the end of the season.
Betar seemed at sixes and sevens in the midfield at the start of the game, but it was an Ashdod mistake that presented the home side with the first half chance of the game 11 minutes in.
Michael Zandberg broke free on the left hand side and his cross ended up in front of right back Cristian Alverez, but the Chilean's overhead kick failed to find the target.
Romulo broke the deadlock in the 35th minute, firing the ball past the right hand of diving Ashdod 'keeper Sammy Adjei from just outside the penalty area.
After the goal, the home side settled down and took control of the game, carrying the momentum into the start of the second half. Barak Itzhaki should have doubled Betar's lead five minutes into the period, when he turned and shot wide from the edge of the six yard box.
Itzhaki made amends in the 52nd minute when he set up Bruchian for the second goal with a clever back heel just inside the penalty area. By this point the Ashdod heads had dropped and Betar was running riot, playing with a renewed confidence and looking like scoring with every attack.
Romulo made it three with just under half an hour left to play, when he fired in a half volley from a pinpoint Yoav Ziv cross. Zandberg powered in the fourth a quarter of an hour later and Tal put the icing on the cake seconds before the final whistle with a bobbling long range free kick, which confused Adjei.