Fans witness what was arguably the best match of the season so far.
By SHARON SOLOMONBetar Jerusalem emerged from a tumultuous week with a 3-2 victory over Maccabi Netanya on Saturday in an Israel Premier League match.
After having to deal with Eli Ohana's resignation as coach last Saturday, the capital's soccer stars seemed to rally around caretaker coach Guy Azuri, who dedicated the win to his predecessor.
Maccabi Netanya 2,
Betar Jerusalem 3
The main game of the weekend was played in front of a sold-out crowd at "The Box" in Netanya and the fans witnessed what was arguably the best match of the season so far.
The visitors pressed ahead from the very beginning and in the fifth minute, striker Lior Asulin unselfishly headed down Jeff Tutuana's cross and Mazua Ensombo, who was lurking unmarked in the penalty area tapped the ball in from close range to give the yellow-and-black a quick lead.
But Netanya's new signing, Alen Masudi, made a brilliant move in the 15th minute, leaving behind three defenders and setting up Ghanaian midfielder Ibrahim Abdul-Razik, who cleverly tapped in the ball from 10 meters to even the score.
The game was very physical and was played with some aggressive challenges.
Jerusalem earned a free kick in the 26th minute about 20 meters away from Netanya's goal. Lior Asulin stepped up and executed the set piece perfectly to put the visitors ahead for a second time.
The drama didn't end and just before halftime, Netanya drew level again. Koby Hasan chose not to fire his free kick towards the goal and found Masudi, who let fly with a fierce shot that deflected off the goalkeeper and rolled into the Jerusalem goal.
Just two minutes into the second half, Betar defender Tomer Haliva brought down Masudi and was sent off after receiving his second yellow card of the game.
Betar was awarded a penalty in the 64th minute after Maor Melikson was brought down brutally near the goalkeepers box. Asulin coolly scored from the spot for his second goal of the game to make it 3-2.
Referee Liran Waksberger appeared to have made a mistake in the 85th minute when he awarded Netanya a penalty after misinterpreting Eli Sason's clean challenge on Masudi in the box, but Betar 'keeper Itzik Kornfein stopped Liron Wilner's spot kick.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 0, Upper Nazareth 0
Both probable relegation contenders concentrated on their defensive game and none of their attacks were fruitful. Petah Tikva hosted the match, with the unsettled home fans entering the stadium in the 10th minute, protesting against Meir Shamir, the former owner of the club, who is still indirectly involved in the team's management.
Bnei Yehuda 2, Hapoel Kfar Saba 1
Hapoel Kfar Saba was no match for Bnei Yehuda, and the hosts took the lead in the very first minute when tall forward Assi Baldut's header went in off the crossbar.
Bnei Yehuda kept attacking and young striker Moshe Biton's piledriver hit the post in the 11th minute.
In the 59th minute, veteran Mate Batterina left goalkeeper Avi Ivgy helpless and scored a spectacular goal from 16 meters away to make it 2-0.
Kfar Saba managed to score a consolation goal in the 74th minute when Emanuel Papu headed in a corner. The greens have yet to win a game this season.
Bnei Sakhnin 0, Ashdod SC 1
An Emanuel Ebiede goal in the 29th minute was the only noteworthy event in an otherwise lackluster fixture that opened Matchday 2 on Friday.
Ebiede slipped past the Sakhnin defenders and scored with a fierce shot to the far post, after being set up beautifully in the penalty area by playmaker David Revivo.
The first Tel Aviv derby of the league season is set for Sunday night at Bloomfield Stadium, while reigning champion Maccabi Haifa hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva on Monday.