Jerusalem is looking to put some pressure on the reigning champion Hapoel Beersheba.
By ALLON SINAI
Many eyebrows were raised when striker Gaetan Varenne joined Beitar Jerusalem last summer.After all, the 27-year-old had just experienced relegation from the National League with Hapoel Jerusalem, and was mostly garnering interest from second division sides after ending the campaign with 13 goals to his name.Varenne, who acquired Israeli citizenship after moving to Israel from France in December 2013 to join Ashdod SC, could hardly believe his luck when Beitar came calling and agreed to sign a contract that will only earn him in the region of $50,000 this season, a tenth of what several star players make in the league.If he continues at his current pace he will be receiving a substantial pay rise soon enough, with Varenne one of the main reasons behind Beitar’s excellent run of results in January. He netted seven goals in six matches over all competitions last month, scoring braces in the team’s State Cup round-of-32 and round-of-16 triumphs.He also found the back of the net in the league victories over Hapoel Haifa and Bnei Sakhnin, and while Beitar suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss at Maccabi Netanya on Monday, at least Varenne’s late goal ensured it remained the only team in the league to score in every match this season.Varenne is expected to receive another opportunity to prove his worth when Beitar hosts Maccabi Haifa on Saturday, aiming to close to within a single point of Hapoel Beersheba in first place. Jerusalem is looking to put some pressure on the reigning champion, as well as Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is in second place two points back of Beersheba, with the top two to face-off in Netanya on Sunday.Maccabi Haifa is still dreaming of finishing in the top six and qualifying for the championship playoffs. However, last week’s 1-1 draw with Maccabi Petah Tikva in Dutch coach Fred Rutten’s debut, left it 11 points back of sixth place and only five points above the relegation zone.AdvertisementAlso Saturday, Netanya visits Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Hapoel Haifa hosts Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Ra’anana faces Hapoel Acre.Elsewhere Sunday, Bnei Yehuda visits Ashdod SC, with Yossi Benayoun set to make his debut for Maccabi Petah Tikva against Hapoel Ashkelon on Monday.