Soccer Wrap: Haifa remains perfect; Betar rises

Maccabi Petah Tikva provided its fans another spirited performance, but went down 2-0 to Brondby in Denmark on Thursday evening.

By SHARON SOLOMON
November 6, 2005 00:41

 
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Maccabi Haifa remained perfect after Matchday 8, but the stories on Saturday were the performances of Bnei Yehuda and Betar Jerusalem, second and third in the standings, respectively. Bnei Yehuda is now a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League after winning for the fifth straight time. Next week the orange host Haifa with hopes of climbing within two points of the reigning champs. Betar roared in the second half behind a Jeff Totuana hat-trick to beat Upper Nazareth 4-0. Maccabi Tel Aviv will have a chance to overtake Betar for third on Sunday night when it travels to last placed Bnei Sakhnin. Eyal Berkovic's place in the starting eleven is not guaranteed, with veteran Ophir Haim a strong candidate to replace him. Sakhnin captain Abbas Suan suffered a serious ankle injury in training this week and is doubtful for the game. "I have not practiced the last few days, but I will try to play this game, even if I have to take pain killers," Suan told reporters. Betar Jerusalem 4, Upper Nazareth 0 Nazareth coach Motti Ivanir fielded a very defensive lineup and tried to contain Betar's attacks. His tactics worked at first, causing a dull and lackluster first half, with the crowd at Teddy Stadium voicing its dissatisfaction. Totuana broke the deadlock in the 51st minute, when he rolled in the ball after a mix-up in the Nazareth defense. It was one-way traffic after the first goal. Tomer Haliva doubled the lead in the 65th minute with a brilliant, angled shot past Oshri Levi. Totuana scored his second goal of the match in the 70th minute, after a brilliant solo dribble from the midfield line. Just three minutes later, the energetic midfielder completed his hat trick after stabbing in from close range, off a Mazua Ensombo cross. Maccabi Netanya 0,Bnei Yehuda 1 The first half was played at a slow pace and ended in a goalless stalemate. Netanya star Alain Masudi was not at his best due to a nagging back injury, which limited his mobility. Bnei Yehuda drew first blood in the 46th minute. Substitute forward Asi Baldut tapped in the ball from close range, after a lapse in the home team's defense, which failed to clear the ball. Netanya coach Reuven Atar inserted forwards Liron Vilner and Shlomi Edri to try and level the game, but the visitors held on to collect all three points from this tough fixture. Maccabi Haifa 2,Hapoel Petah Tikva 0 The champions hardly broke a sweat in this easy home game, which was taken off the Toto betting form earlier this week since Haifa was such an overwhelming favorite. Erez Eliav made his debut for Petah Tikva this season after returning from a brief stint at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he failed to make his mark. Brazilian Gustavo Boccoli (39) and Michael Zandberg (42) provided some clinical finishes to hand the visitors their fourth straight loss. Hapoel Tel Aviv 3,Hapoel Kfar Saba 1 In Friday afternoon's fixture, Dror Kashtan's Tel Aviv returned to its winning ways thanks to a majestic performance by Walid Badier. Badier scored a brace (35, 60) and Baruch Dego, who came off the bench in the second half, converted with a rasping drive in the 70th minute. Shalev Menashe scored the temporary equalizer for the visitors in the 45th minute. "We played poorly in the first half, but showed our talent in the last 35 minutes. I am satisfied [with the result], but I always expect to see improvement," Kashtan said afterwards. Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Ashdod SC Monday evening to lock up Matchday 8. Petah Tikva falls again in Europe Maccabi Petah Tikva provided its fans another spirited performance, but went down 2-0 to Brondby in Denmark on Thursday evening in Group B of the UEFA Cup. Jefisley Caldeira and Emile Mbamba found themselves in front of goal on numerous occasions, but failed to convert. Left back Kobi Ganon was unlucky as his piledriver hit the post and went out of play. Maccabi paid for its inaccuracy in front of goal when Marcus Lantz (67) and substitute Johan Absalonsen (83) scored to secure the win for Michael Laudrup's side. The Israelis are still pointless after two games, with all the other teams off the mark. Petah Tikva next takes on Locomotive Moscow on November 30 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan in what becomes a must-win game if coach Guy Luzon's charges hope to reach the competition's knockout stage.

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