Beitar, Ra’anana go back and forth in draw

Slow-starting Jerusalem feels jilted as controversial stoppage-time tackle goes unnoticed.

BEITAR JERUSALEM’S Andres Tunez 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Beitar Jerusalem was forced to settle for a frustrating 2-2 draw against Hapoel Ra’anana on Sunday night after being denied a stoppage-time penalty in Netanya.
Beitar twice took the lead before Ra’anana deservingly equalized, but a moment of controversy in the 91st minute overshadowed the entire match.
Ra’anana midfielder Tamir Cohen clearly brought down Jerusalem’s Andres Tunez in the box, but referee Eitan Schmuelevich inexplicably overlooked the incident, leaving Beitar fuming at the injustice.
With Sunday’s stalemate, Beitar has picked up just four points from its first four matches of the season, while Ra’anana maintained its unbeaten start to the campaign and climbed up to third place in the standings with eight points.
“This is part of the game. Referees also make mistakes,” said Beitar coach Eli Cohen, regaining his composure after running to confront Schmuelevich at the final whistle.
“Beitar has a new squad and we are building the team as we go along. This is a side that two weeks ago everyone said would be relegated. We need to give it time and be patient. I didn’t like the way we played today, but you also have to give Ra’anana credit for playing excellently. I don’t think we deserved more than a point.”
Despite benefiting from Schmuelevich’s mistake, Ra’anana coach Menahem Koretzki was disappointed with Sunday’s draw.
“I’m not pleased with a single point,” he said. “We could have gotten more out of this match, even though Beitar twice held the lead.”
It took Beitar less than five minutes to move in front for the first time, with Itzik Cohen slotting in the opener from close range after a defensive mix-up.
Jerusalem continued to dominate proceedings, but Ra’anana would level the score against the run of play in the 14th minute. ’Keeper Ariel Harush barely moved as Tamir Cohen blasted his free kick from 20 meters into the top right corner.
Beitar still held the lead at halftime, with Teteh Bangura netting his first goal for the team in the 29th minute with a cool finish past ‘keeper Gal Nir.
However, Asi Baldut would equalize eight minutes into the second half following some more poor defending and Bangura was sent off for elbowing Emmanuel Mbola nine minutes from time before Schmuelevich’s blunder brought the lively encounter to a contentious ending.
On Monday, Hapoel Beersheba will look to keep pace with reigning champion Maccabi Tel Aviv when it hosts Bnei Yehuda at Vasermil Stadium.
The last time Beersheba began a season with three straight wins was the 1974/75 season, when it also won its first championship, and it will be hoping to make it four victories in a row to start a campaign for the first time ever on Monday.
Dutch striker Glynor Plet, who scored 10 goals for Racing Genk in Belgium last season, will be named in Beersheba’s squad for the first time, but will start the match on the bench.
“Our start to the season should give us confidence that we are a good team and that if we continue to work together we can continue to improve,” said Beersheba coach Elisha Levy.
“Our goal is to be a top team and now that everyone is talking about us we need to live up to these expectations. We need to remain modest and do our job.”