Beleaguered Betar notches point at Bloomfield

Malmilian’s Jerusalem holds Hapoel Tel Aviv off the scoreboard to earn 0-0 draw.

Hapoel Tel Aviv strikers Toto Tamuz and Ben Sahar (photo credit: Hapoel Tel Aviv website)
Hapoel Tel Aviv strikers Toto Tamuz and Ben Sahar
(photo credit: Hapoel Tel Aviv website)
Betar Jerusalem celebrated Sunday night’s 0-0 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium as if it had won the match, and rightfully so.
After losing six of its first nine matches and going through a tumultuous week in which coach Uri Malmilian offered his resignation several times, Betar entered Sunday’s encounter against the reigningchampion as a massive underdog.
Hapoel had won five consecutive contests and three more points against Jerusalem would have taken it to the top of the Premier League standings for the first time this season.
However, Betar never allowed Tel Aviv to find its rhythm, and had Malmilian’s men been slightly sharper, the visitors could have well left Bloomfield with their first victory since September.
“I’m pleased with the way we played, but we should have scored,” said Malmilian, who finally smiled after Sunday’s final whistle.
“I always took the responsibility for our situation and as soon as I feel that I’m not doing what I’m capable of I will leave. Betar wants to be a top team and we need to build on this result with a win against Hapoel Ramat Gan next week.”
Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman was understandably disappointed with his team’s under-par performance.
“Betar deserves credit,” he said.
“They came ready and closed us down. We held the ball, but didn’t create chances. We were slow and were fortunate Enyeama was alert.”
With Hapoel entering the match on the back of five straight wins and Betar coming in after its humbling 2- 0 home defeat against Hapoel Petah Tikva last week, there seemed to be little doubt Jerusalem would lose once more in Bloomfield.
The eventual margin of the Hapoel victory looked to be the only question mark on the night, but Betar was playing for its pride and had no intention of allowing the reigningchampion to humiliate it any further.
Malmilian’s players showed the necessary determination and tenacity they have lacked for most of the season throughout the 90 minutes.
Despite allowing Hapoel to control the possession for much of the early going, it was Amit Ben-Shushan who registered the first real scoring chance.
The Betar forward found space on the edge of the box and released a thunderous effort which required Tel Aviv ’keeper Vincent Enyeama to be at his best to save.
Hapoel fans had to wait until the 34th minute before seeing their team threaten Ariel Harush’s goal, with the Betar ‘keeper doing well to keep out Toto Tamuz’s dangerous header.
Harush had to be alert moments later to clear another header, this time by Bevan Fransman, but it was the visitors who had the better of the final stages of the first half, almost finding the net.
Idan Tal’s powerful effort in the 44th minute went just wide of Enyeama’s goal, giving the hosts plenty to ponder in the halftime break.
However, Betar was the better team in the second half and should have really scored the winner.
Samuel Yeboah squandered a good chance in the 58th minute and Avi Rikan fired at goal instead of passing seven minutes later to Malmilian’s disgust.
Harush came to Betar’s rescue in the 70th minute when he somehow kept out Tamuz’s effort with his foot, ensuring Jerusalem picked up a well deserved point and perhaps finally got its campaign well and truly underway.
“We knew we had nothing to lose and we gave our heart and soul,” Harush said.
“We’ve been through a tough week. I couldn’t look in Uri’s eyes after our poor performances, but we played a good match against the best team in the country tonight.”
Man of the match Eli Dasa echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
“Our situation is complicated, but I’m happy that after such a difficult week we gave our all for Uri and the fans,” the right-back said.
“We could not disappoint them. We fought for every ball.”