Betar earns thrilling 3-3 draw in Haifa

Jerusalem denies Greens’ opportunity to move top of table with stoppage-time equalizer.

Betar 311 (photo credit: Betar Jerusalem website)
Betar 311
(photo credit: Betar Jerusalem website)
A Hen Azriel stoppage time goal gave Betar Jerusalem a share of the points at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Sunday night following an entertaining 3-3 draw against Maccabi Haifa.
Haifa seemed to be heading to the top of the Premier League standings after it came from behind to take a 3-2 lead thanks to a brace by substitute Shlomi Azulai.
However, 15 minutes after being introduced from the substitutes’ bench, Azriel picked up the ball in the box and smashed in a dramatic equalizer for Betar, which after losing its first three matches of the season seems to be finally finding its way.
“I’m delighted with this point,” Betar coach Uri Malmilian said. “Betar played well tonight and we have a good future ahead of us.” Haifa coach Elisha Levy was understandably frustrated with seeing two points slip away so late in the encounter.
“I’m disappointed,” Levy said. “When you come back from behind you need to know how to hold on to your lead.”
Levy was forced to manage without the injured Yaniv Katan and Lior Rafaelov, but the hosts still got off to the better start and would eventually score the opener.
The 19-year-old Sintiyahu Salalik, making just his second league appearance for Haifa, impressed with his runs down the right flank and his excellent build-up play almost resulted in a goal in the seventh minute.
Salalik found Mohammad Ghadir in the box, but the forward’s weak effort was cleared off the line by Betar’s Moshe Mishaelof.
Ten minutes later, Haifa made the breakthrough.
The Betar defense couldn’t cope with Salalik’s cross and Eyal Golasa pounced to smash in the opener from 10 meters out.
Less than two minutes later, however, Haifa’s defensive frailties were exposed.
The hosts defense failed to clear Idan Tal’s corner and Chilean defender Cristian Gonzalez had all the time in the world to slot in the equalizer. Betar’s quick reply stunned Haifa, but neither team created much in the remainder of the first half.
However, less than two minutes into the second half, Betar was gifted the lead by Haifa defender Shai Maimon.
A confused Maimon passed the ball straight to the feet of Betar’s Steven Cohen and the midfielder had no trouble picking out Samuel Yeboah, who had the net at his mercy.
The visitors grew in confidence after taking the lead, but Haifa sent more and more players forward as the match progressed and tied the score in the 65th minute.
Moments after Yeboah’s superb surge forward was halted by ‘keeper Amir Edri, Haifa hit Betar on the break, with Peter Masilela crossing the ball perfectly for Azulai to slot in.
Twelve minutes later, Azulai completed the comeback.
Vladimir Dvalishvili sliced the Betar defense with his through ball and ’keeper Ariel Harush could only slow Azulai’s shot as it rolled into the back of the net.
Haifa seemed to be heading towards the three points, but 30 seconds after the 90th minute Azriel popped up in the box and beat Edri to give Betar a deserved point.