Beitar blitzes Sakhnin in instant classic

Jerusalem gets back on track after erasing 2-0 deficit • Cup round-of-16 action gets under way

Beitar Jerusalem defender Marcel Heister (left) celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal against Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem defender Marcel Heister (left) celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal against Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Beitar Jerusalem came back from twogoals down to claim a sweet 4-2 victory over Bnei Sakhnin in a thrilling encounter at Teddy Stadium on Monday night, closing back to within a single point of the Premier League summit.
A fourth-minute goal by Ataa Jaber and an own-goal by Beitar goalkeeper Boris Kleyman in the 37th minute after a string of mistakes gave Sakhnin a shock 2-0 lead. Beitar fans began to lose their patience and calls for the head of coach Benny Ben-Zaken, as well as racist chants against Muslims, reverberated around Teddy.
Ofir Kriaf, who only joined Beitar from Ironi Kiryat Shmona last week, returning to the club he left in 2015, handed the hosts a lifeline before the break. He finished off a sensational team move with an accurate shot from the edge of the box in the 43rd minute, 13 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Beitar blitzed Sakhnin in the first seven minutes of the second half to complete the comeback. Gaetan Varenne equalized with a free header in the 47th minute after Marcel Heister’s excellent cross and Hen Ezra moved Jerusalem in front with a superb strike from 20 meters out four minutes later.
Heister put the icing on the cake in the 67th minute with an incredible strike from 30 meters out, taking Beitar to 45 goals this season, 10 more than any other team in the league.
“We were sure we would win the match, even when we were trailing 2-0,” said Ben-Zaken.
As if the match wasn’t eventful enough, Beitar yet again provided talking points that have nothing to do with the game itself.
After coach Ben-Zaken seemed to receive instructions regarding a substitution from banned owner Eli Tabib during last week’s 1-1 draw against Ironi Kiryat Shmona, on Monday it was captain Itay Shechter making the headlines.
After Brazilian midfielder Georginho suffered an injury that seemed likely to end his match, Shechter ran to the bench and himself ordered Yossi Benayoun to warm up and prepare to come on. Benayoun’s lack of playing time has been one of the main reasons Ben-Zaken has clashed with the fans time and again, with many of the supporters believing it is Tabib who is ordering the coach not to use the veteran midfielder.
Shechter seemed to completely ignore Ben-Zaken, who didn’t respond as Benayoun got up and began to warm up. Eventually, Georginho was able to return to the game and Benayoun would come as a substitute at the start of the second half.
“Shechter is the captain and if he wants to say something that is fine,” explained Ben-Zaken. “I’m the coach and I’m ultimately the one who decides who comes on as a substitute. We are in a really good place and what is most important right now is that we are winning. That is all we should focus on and the rest is nothing more than distractions.”
Beitar will already be back in action on Thursday when it faces Hapoel Marmorek in the State Cup round-of-16. Cup play gets under way on Tuesday, including Hapoel Beersheba visiting Hapoel Ramat Gan of the National League. Hapoel Haifa looks to bounce back from its disappointing league results when it visits Hapoel Acre.