soccer betar bruchian.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
The early-season pressure was finally lifted off Betar Jerusalem on Saturday night, as two strikes from super-sub Toto Tamuz helped Itzhak Schum's men to their first goals and first win of the season in a 3-1 victory away at Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa will go into this week's Champions League opener against Bayern Munich with a degree of confidence, after maintaining its 100% domestic league record with a 3-1 win against Hapoel Ramat Gan.
Elsewhere, a goal by Hapoel Ra'anana's Brazilian striker Cristiano Dos Santos equalized Awudu Okocha's effort at Maccabi Netanya, ensuring that the Diamonds' dismal start to the campaign continued.
At Ashdod, Moshe Ohayon's 19th-minute goal helped the home side to a 1-0 win over Hapoel Acre, while a brace by Arafat Djako gave Bnei Sakhnin a 2-0 victory at home to Hapoel Petah Tikva.
Also Saturday, goals by Eran Levy, Yero Bello and Amir Abu Nil gave Hapoel Haifa a 3-1 win at bottom side Maccabi Ahi Nazareth, for whom Yaniv Luzon found the net but also picked up a late red card.
Maccabi Petah Tikva 1, Betar Jerusalem 3
It was a lively first period between two highly committed sides at Maccabi Petah Tikva, with passes fizzing about and tackles flying.
The speedy Tal Ben-Haim and Danny Freda caused problems for the Betar defense in the opening minutes, particularly for the sluggish Arik Benado.
At the other end, Petah Tikva 'keeper Ohad Cohen had a marvelous half, stopping long-range shots by Aviram Bruchian and Idan Vered, and denying Avi Reikan with an audacious double save.
Petah Tikva almost took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Croatian striker Tomislav Busic rattled the post after Ben-Haim's through-ball.
The visitors broke the deadlock four minutes after the restart. A Bruchian corner went through Busic's legs, and Vered was on hand to sweep the ball into the corner.
The cup holder doubled its lead midway though the second half. Barak Itzhaki's shot from the edge of the box was saved by Cohen, but Tamuz gleefully tucked home the rebound.
Benado got his marching orders 17 minutes from time after a late challenge on Ben-Haim, but Petah Tikva failed to capitalize on its numerical advantage, and Tamuz wrapped up the points in the 89th minute, breaking away from the half-way line, sidestepping Murad Megamadov, before rifling the ball into the bottom corner.
Petah Tikva's Dovev Gabai found the net in injury time from Vanco Trajanov's pass, but it was too little too late for the hosts.
A relieved Schum said that from his point of view "this was the first game of the season," adding that "there's always room for improvement, and there will be improvement."
Maccabi Haifa 3, Hapoel Ramat Gan 1
Maccabi Haifa began in disastrous fashion at Kiryat Eliezer, and after a mix-up between center-backs Dekel Keinan and Jorge Teixera almost gifted an early goal to Ramat Gan striker Serge Aylei, the local champion fell behind. A 17th-minute corner was punched to the edge of the box by Nir Davidovich, and Hrvoje Kovacevic's first-time volley through the crowd went in off the post.
Despite being well short of their best, the hosts leveled on 30 minutes when Eyal Golasa, the shortest man on the field, escaped the attention of the visiting defenders and headed in Gustavo Boccoli's corner.
Haifa took the lead on the stroke of half time with a somewhat contentious goal. Boccoli's free-kick was hooked on by Golasa, and Vladimir Dvalishvili, who looked offside, nodded the ball in past a static Rafi Cohen.
The goal was given, much to the annoyance of Hapoel coach Yuval Naim, who launched a verbal tirade at referee Moshe Buhbut after the half-time whistle and had to be hauled away from the official.
Haifa was much improved in the second half, passing more fluidly while restoring some solidity to its backline, and Shlomi Arbeitman curled in a brilliant third 10 minutes from time after some good work by substitute Ali Ottman.
Haifa coach Elisha Levy was pleased his side, yet again, came from behind to win.
"We usually come back and that shows our confidence, we don't get flustered," he said. "We'll now do our best to prepare for the game against Bayern."