Betar Jerusalem, Hapoel TA draw at Bloomfield

Despite Betar's lack of attacking play, the yellow-and-black enjoyed another skillful display from French midfielder Jerome Leroy.

No wonder the title race is effectively over. If Maccabi Haifa coach Roni Levy bothered to tune in to the clash of bitter rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem, he would have seen little to unsettle his "champions elect" from their lofty perch. For this was no more then squabbling over the scraps left dangling from Haifa's title table. Not that it was without intrigue, with the two clubs left trailing in the Greens' wake, competing among themselves for European qualification. But the 1-1 draw Sunday night in Bloomfield Stadium simply enabled Levy's side to open a 15-point lead over second-place Hapoel, with third-place Betar 17 points adrift. Despite Betar's lack of attacking play, the yellow-and-black enjoyed another skillful display from French midfielder Jerome Leroy. The midfielder was kept quiet at times by the Hapoel defense, but with the ball at his feet, he showed he has more talent in one foot then some entire Premier League teams put together. Betar also enjoyed a solid debut from Macedonian defender Igor Mitrevski, who kept Hapoel at bay for most of the game. "The match wasn't played at a high level", said Hapoel coach Dror Kashtan afterwards. "Hapoel didn't appear in the first half and Betar didn't dare to attack and settled for defending." Both sides began the match slowly and the first quarter of the game passed by without any real chance in front of goal. After 28 minutes Hapoel 'keeper Shavit Elimelch gifted Betar with the opener when he kicked his clearance poorly and Betar striker Lior Asulin took full advantage and rolled the ball into the empty net. "Baruch Dego kicked a weak back pass towards me and I had to run out to it. Asulin tripped me and fouled me", was Elimelch's explanation of his mistake that led to the Betar goal. Betar's goal injected life into the match and nine minutes after falling behind, Hapoel almost got an equalizer. Defender Yigal Antebi headed the ball from the corner toward the Betar goal, but Betar defender Yoav Ziv it off the line and kept the lead intact. A minute from halftime Leroy should have doubled Betar's lead. The Frenchman failed to take advantage of Ziv's good build-up and hit a poor shot straight at Elimelch. Betar began the second half searching for a second goal and should have gotten it 10 minutes after the break. Leroy set up Asulin with a free shot three meters from the Hapoel goal, but the Betar striker wasted the golden opportunity and ballooned the ball over the goal. Hapoel went into action after Asulin's miss and finally got an equalizer 64 minutes into the match. Hapoel forward Zito Ogabuna, with his first touch after coming on as a substitute, headed Elyaniv Barda's free kick beyond a helpless Itzik Korenfien and evened the score. Five minutes later Ilya Yeborian almost completed a Hapoel comeback. The Hapoel substitute should have turned Barda's free kick into a goal, but he wasted the chance and his shot skimmed out off the crossbar. As the half progressed, both teams continued to search for a winner, but to no avail. With 13 minutes to go, Betar striker Jeff Tutuana blasted a shot from 25 meters out that went just wide of the Hapoel goal. Two minutes later, Barda found space inside the Betar box, but he blasted the ball over the goal and the match ended in a tie.