Maccabi TA soccer 298.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It wasn't always pretty, but Betar Jerusalem held on for a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night, to claim its sixth victory out of seven league games and stretch its lead at the top of the Premier League standings back to three points over Maccabi Netanya.
Tel Aviv battled throughout the game, often looking the stronger and more organized side, especially in the second half. However, coach Nir Levin's team fell foul to poor finishing and had no answer to goals from Barak Itzhaki after a quarter of an hour and Derek Boateng's injury time strike.
The Maccabi management will now have to seriously consider Levin's future, with the club rooted at the bottom of the standings with only one point from its seven matches so far.
Betar coach Itzhak Schum started with Amit Ben-Shushan up front, along with Itzhaki, at the expense of Toto Tamuz, after Ben-Shushan scored two goals in last weekend's win over Maccabi Petah Tikva.
The young striker did himself proud, coming close on a number of occasions. Before he was substituted 15 minutes into the second half, he had continuously threatened the Maccabi defense.
Brazilian Ramalho, who played for Betar for the second half of last season, put in a good performance for Maccabi, as did Yossi Shivhon, but neither could put the ball past Jerusalem goalkeeper Tvrtko Kale.
There was a tense atmosphere in the buildup to the game, with Teddy completely sold out and the 1,000 Maccabi fans tucked in the corner making themselves heard.
UEFA official Patrick Gasser attended the game as part of Action Week In Europe, run by the UEFA-affiliated group Football Against Racism in Europe. The players showed support for the campaign by wearing T-shirts bearing the anti-racism logo before the match began.
But once it kicked off there was no love lost between the teams, who went at each other from the start.
Betar had the first shot on goal after seven minutes, with left back Yoav Ziv crossing to Itzhaki, but he was saved by Maccabi 'keeper Dragoslav Jevric. A minute later, though, the Betar striker was clean through again. When Jevric brought him down in the penalty area the referee had no choice but to point to the spot, but Michael Zandberg's penalty kick went wide of the left hand post, causing groans around the stadium.
A quarter of an hour in it was 1-0. Zandberg sent a pinpoint cross in to Itzhaki, who made no mistake and volleyed in from just a few meters out with his right foot.
Although Betar had the lion's share of the possession, the visitors had their chances. Just before the half hour mark Shivhon went close with a sharp effort from the left side of the penalty area, but it skidded away from Kale's goal.
The game became a tight battle in the second half, with both defenses holding strong.
Shivhon should have scored 10 minutes into the period with a glancing header in the six yard box. Kale saved but Maccabi seemed to have Betar against the ropes, surging forward while the home side's attacks were coming to nothing.
However it was not to be. Boateng secured the win in the 91st minute when he latched on to a pass from substitute Romulo and fired home.
Matchday seven will conclude on Monday night when Hapoel Tel Aviv hosts Ashdod SC at Bloomfield Stadium.