Soccer: Betar and Netanya disappoint in debuts

Jerusalem held 0-0 by Sakhnin in Haifa after Matthaus's Diamonds draw at Mac PT.

September 1, 2008 06:47
3 minute read.
Soccer: Betar and Netanya disappoint in debuts

Hapoel Betar 224.88. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

The two main title contenders on Sunday showed that this season's championship race may be even more open than many experts had initially assumed. Maccabi Netanya drew 1-1 at Maccabi Petah Tikva in the first Israeli Premier League game of the day before Betar Jerusalem played out a goalless draw away to Bnei Sakhnin. After Maccabi Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa both won on Saturday, Netanya's star coach Lothar Matthaus will be feeling the pressure building just a single match into the season. Only three days earlier, the team bankrolled by German businessman Daniel Jammer limped out of the UEFA Cup in the second qualifying round, losing to Bulgarian minnows Cherno More. Although Netanya played a little better against Petah Tikva on Sunday, the team displayed far too little of the incisive scoring touch needed to excel at any level. Matthaus showed his frustration when speaking to reporters after the game. "I am not satisfied. I am unhappy because I know we can play much better. But we didn't show this in the last two games. I think everyone wants to play at a higher level," he said. Neither Netanya or Petah Tikva managed to carve out many chances in the first half, although Baruch Dego hit the post with a fine long range effort in the 26th minute. The opening goal came in the 63rd minute when Argentinian striker Pablo Bastianini poked the ball past Netanya keeper Liran Strauber from close range. But the lead only lasted two minutes, until substitute Itai Shechter fired in a superb shot from 20 meters out which beat Ohad Cohen in the Maccabi Petah Tikva goal. Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon, who only took over the team from Nitzan Shirazi a week ago, was far more satisfied than his opposite number. "I have only been here about a week and this is the first time these players have all played together for me," he said. "The team needs to be more organized although we can take many positives from this game. "I am a little disappointed because we went 1-0 up and gave away the lead. But, in general, we can look at the cup half full today." Betar Jerusalem's Itzhak Schum is another coach who will surely be feeling the heat after also being knocked out of Europe early on and then being unable to inspire his players to perform in the first league game of the season. Jerusalem managed to hit the crossbar twice within a five-minute span in the second half but could not put the ball in the net. The first chance of the game, played at Haifa's Kiryat Eliezer stadium, nearly saw Sakhnin go a goal up 20 minutes into the encounter. Former Betar midfielder Mazua Ensombo shot from the edge of the penalty area and the ball was suddenly deflected towards the goal. But Jerusalem goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale reacted well and somehow saved with his legs. Yaniv Luzon also came close to scoring for Sakhnin towards the end of the first half and should have done better when he shot wide of the goal after picking up a cross from Oshri Gita, one of the best players on the pitch. Schum substituted Idan Tal and Amit Ben-Shushan for Moshe Ohayon and Barak Itzhaki at half time and the team in yellow and black came out fighting in the second half. The increased pressure so nearly bore fruit five minutes after half time when Barak Itzhaki's header thundered against the cross bar. And five minutes later Aviram Bruchian came close to finishing off a sumptuous move which resulted in a Yoav Ziv cross, but his header also hit the bar. As the clock move towards 90 minutes, a 0-0 draw appeared inevitable, although Cristian Alvarez could have scored for the visitors when he found himself in space on the right of the penalty area on 75 minutes but his shot went well wide. Hamed Ghnaim was unlucky for Sakhnin with a freekick a minute before the final whistle which hit the bar.

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