Beitar beats Maccabi Tel Aviv to cut gap on first

Jerusalem's win is yet another setback for Maccabi.

Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Hen Ezra scored his team's second goal in last night's 3-2 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Hen Ezra scored his team's second goal in last night's 3-2 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem’s Premier League title hopes are alive and kicking after cutting the gap on first place to four points on Monday night with a 3-2 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium.
After a slow start to the match, Beitar scored three times in 14 minutes to take a stranglehold on the contest. Brazilian midfielder Claudemir broke the deadlock with a free-kick from the edge of the box in the 29th minute, with Hen Ezra doubling the advantage five minutes later. Maccabi got a goal back from an Omer Atzili penalty in the 38th minute, but Beitar regained its two-goal cushion following Slovakian striker Jakub Sylvestr’s header three minutes from the break.
Vidar Orn Kjartansson gave Maccabi a lifeline with his goal in the 58th minute, but Beitar held on for the three crucial points.
“This was a very very important win for us after we didn’t win our past two games and as it also cut the gap on the top,” said Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken. “It wasn’t pretty at the end but these are three critical points.”
Jerusalem has lost just one home match all season, falling 2-1 to Maccabi Tel Aviv in their previous meeting four months ago.
But Maccabi has completely lost its way over recent week, suffering its fourth straight loss on Monday to remain in fourth place, 12 points behind Beersheba.
Maccabi is just three points above Maccabi Netanya and yellow-and-blue coach Jordi Cruyff admitted that his team’s main goal at the moment is to secure a top-four finish and qualification for the Europa League.
“We made it almost impossible for ourselves by conceding three goals in the first half,” said Cruyff. “It is unbelievable that we have zero points in the playoffs so far. We have to adjust to the reality and every game is important now if we want to play in Europe.”
Earlier Monday, Hapoel Tel Aviv secured its promotion back to the Premier League, defeating Ahi Nazareth 3-0 to guarantee a top-two finish in the National League with six matches to play.
Shahar Hirsch (11, 13) and Serbian striker Fejsal Mulic (24) scored for Hapoel, which was relegated to the second division for just the second time in its illustrious history last season.
Hapoel’s only other season in the National League was back in 1989/90, when it also required just one campaign to return to the top flight.
“We completed the mission, but there is no reason to celebrate. We are back to where we belong,” said Hapoel coach Kobi Refua, who joined the team mid-season. “Hapoel Tel Aviv is a big club and I’m proud to be here.”
The ownership group led by the Nisanov brothers took over the club in January of last year when it was already in a dire state. The new owners couldn’t help the team avoid relegation, but ensured the side only spent one year in the National League and have got big plans for next season.
“This is a wonderful feeling,” said Itzik Nisanov. “We have a good foundation to build on and will have one of the five highest budgets in the Premier League.”