Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Rade Prica 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised back to the top floor of the Premier League table on
Sunday night, beating Beitar Jerusalem 2-1 at Teddy Stadium for its third
For a second straight week, Maccabi entered its match
knowing it would require a positive result to return to first place after being
leapfrogged by Hapoel Beersheba.
However, the defending champion is so
far showing no signs of feeling any pressure, taking the lead against Beitar
through Rade Prica after just 67 seconds and maintaining full control until the
Barak Itzhaki doubled the advantage two minutes from
halftime with his first goal against his former team before Bryan Jones netted a
consolation goal seven minutes from time.
“It wasn’t as easy as it
looked,” said Itzhaki. “Even though we controlled the entire match, things got a
little crazy after Beitar scored. We eventually won and that is all that really
“I spent most of my career at Beitar and have some really good
memories from the club,” added the striker. “I love many people here and I
simply couldn’t celebrate my goal.”
Maccabi could well find itself behind
Beersheba once more next week should the southerners beat Hapoel Ra’anana on
Saturday. The yellow-and-blue doesn’t host Hapoel Tel Aviv in the derby until
Monday and will surely face a far tougher challenge than the one posed by
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Jerusalem, guided by assistant coach David Amsalem following the
sacking of Eli Cohen last week, dropped to its fourth straight loss and sits in
11th place in the standings, just two places from the relegation zone, but still
seven points clear of the bottom two.
New Beitar coach Roni Levy, who was
appointed on Friday, watched Sunday’s match from the stands alongside owner Eli
Tabib and was given a crash course on the dire state of the team he
Levy, who guided Maccabi Haifa to three straight championships
between 2004 and 2006, coached Beitar for six months before leaving in the
summer of 2011 to join Romanian club Steaua Bucharest.
Levy resigned just
three months later and guided Anorthosis Famagusta to a fourth-place finish in
the Cypriot league in 2011/12 before being fired in April of this
He surely has big plans for Beitar, but will first have to steady
the ship, starting with Saturday’s encounter at inform Bnei Sakhnin.
of the most pressing problems Levy will have to address is Beitar’s defensive
frailty, with Maccabi slicing Jerusalem’s back-four with ease with the match
Eran Zahavi found Prica in space and the Swedish striker
fired the visitors into the lead with an accurate left-footed
Zahavi should have doubled the advantage in the 38th minute,
failing to finish off an otherwise excellent solo effort. But Itzhaki would make
sure his teammate’s miss would quickly be forgotten, scoring a minute later with
a clinical shot.
Tal Ben-Haim and Prica squandered opportunities they
would expect to convert in the second half and Beitar was handed a lifeline
seven minutes from time after substitute Bryan Jones scored from the edge of the
box with a sensational solo run.
The goal gave Beitar some hope, but the
hosts couldn’t find an equalizer and will aim to embark on a new course starting
from Levy’s first training session on Monday morning.
Hapoel Tel Aviv
hosts Ashdod SC on Monday night.
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