Beitar held to stalemate by Kiryat Shmona

Jerusalem moves up to first but fails to extend winning streak • Beersheba hosts Hap Haifa

Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Hen Ezra (right) battles for the ball with Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Ahmed Abed (left) during a 1-1 draw in Premier League action. (photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Hen Ezra (right) battles for the ball with Ironi Kiryat Shmona’s Ahmed Abed (left) during a 1-1 draw in Premier League action.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Beitar Jerusalem dropped two important points in the Premier League title race on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 at Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
Beitar still climbed up to first place for at least 24 hours, moving tied with Hapoel Beersheba on 37 points, but ahead of the two-time defending champion on goal difference.
Beersheba hosts Hapoel Haifa at Turner Stadium on Sunday night.
Jerusalem entered the match at Kiryat Shmona on the back of a three-match winning streak, while the hosts had lost their previous four games.
Beitar deserved no better than a single point, with Omer Lakau giving Kiryat Shmona the lead on three minutes before Brazilian midfielder Claudemir leveled the score direct from a corner kick in the 21st minute, with Beitar striker Itay Shechter blocking goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan in illegal fashion.
“We didn’t deserve to win today,” said Beitar coach Benny Ben-Zaken.
“We controlled the possession but didn’t create many chances.”
Elsewhere Saturday, Maccabi Netanya failed to win for the sixth time in eight matches, requiring an 87th-minute equalizer from Togo striker Didier Kougbenya to draw 2-2 with Ashdod SC.
Netanya was hoping to make up some lost ground on the top four, but had to settle for a single point once more. The hosts took the lead through Kougbenya in the 45th minute and the match may well have developed differently had Eran Levy converted his penalty in the 50th minute to double the advantage.
Levy’s spot kick went out off the post and substitute Yuval Ya’akobovitz leveled the score in the 60th minute, less than four minutes after coming on.
Gadi Kinde completed Ashdod’s comeback in the 61st minute and Netanya and Levy were surely thinking it would not be their day after the latter couldn’t score from a second penalty in the 75th minute.
However, Ashdod lost Bulgarian defender Viktor Genev to red card for the foul that led to the spot kick and Kougbenya ensured Netanya at least left with a share of the spoils.
Bnei Yehuda leapfrogged Netanya into fifth place, returning to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over rock-bottom Hapoel Acre.
Ben Azubel gave Acre a surprise lead in the 16th minute, but a Mavis Tchibota (53, 79) brace secured Bnei Yehuda all three points.
Maccabi Petah Tikva defeated Bnei Sakhnin 2-0 on Saturday, combining two straight wins for the first time this season.
Petah Tikva moved 10 points clear of the relegation zone, with Richard Soumah (7) and Romario Pires (47) finding the back of the net.
Beersheba welcomes Hapoel Haifa after having its five-match home winning streak in league action snapped with last week’s goalless deadlock against Bnei Yehuda. Hapoel did at least extend its record unbeaten streak at Turner Stadium to 42 games.
“In case anyone is confused, we have the best players in the country, we are in first place and have won the past two championships,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar.
Elsewhere Sunday, Hapoel Ashkelon welcomes Hapoel Ra’anana.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is two points behind Beersheba and Beitar, visits Maccabi Haifa on Monday.