Betar, Sakhnin draw under the spotlight

Jerusalem mounts furious comeback as crowd kept under control; TA clubs set for derby.

Betar Jerusalem's Dzhabrail Kadiyev 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem's Dzhabrail Kadiyev 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The drama on the field exceeded that off it at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night after Betar Jerusalem came back from two goals down to salvage a 2-2 draw against Bnei Sakhnin thanks to an 85th-minute Steven Cohen equalizer.
Over 400 policemen as well as some 200 security guards were at the stadium to keep the peace following Betar’s recent struggle against a racist group of its fans, numbering several hundreds, who have been protesting against the signings of Chechen Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev.
Six people were arrested and 96 fans were expelled by the security forces on Sunday, but considering the extreme measures taken and the volatile potential of the showdown, the match ended without a hitch.
Betar had lost the two matches it had played since owner Arkadi Gaydamak announced the arrival of Kadiyev and Sadayev and it seemed to be heading to a third straight defeat after Mohammed Kalibat gave Sakhnin a 2-0 lead at the break, scoring with a sensational solo effort in the 27th minute and firing in from close range 10 minutes later.
However, the visitors squandered opportunities to clinch the win in the second half and Eran Levy gave Betar a lifeline with a superb strike from a tight angle in the 71st minute.
Kadiyev entered the match as an 80th-minute substitute and was received by a mixture of whistles and applause every time he touched the ball. However, the Jerusalem fans forgot all about their new Chechen player five minutes later when Cohen found the back of the net with a header to give Betar a point it deserved.
“I’m pleased with a point considering what happened in the first half,” said Betar coach Eli Cohen. “I hope we can build momentum with this result.”
On Monday, Maccabi hosts Hapoel in a mouthwatering Tel Aviv derby which will have major implications on the title race.
Hapoel enters the showdown eight points behind Maccabi after losing three straight matches.
The Reds fell to Betar Jerusalem, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Netanya by a combined goal difference of 8-0, but they also entered the first derby of the season following a loss to Netanya and ended up eking out a 1-0 victory to close back within three points of the yellow-and-blue.
A defeat on Monday will see Hapoel fall a massive 11 points behind Maccabi, but a victory could completely change the complexion of the title race with four more matches to play before the league is split into two sections and the top six teams face each other twice more to determine the champion.
Almog Cohen is expected to make his debut for Hapoel on Monday after completing his loan move from Bundesliga club Nuremberg, with Tal Ben- Haim likely to return from injury.
Maccabi snapped its four-game winless streak on the road with a 1-0 triumph at Hapoel Ramat Gan last week and has won nine of 10 home games this season, claiming its past five by a combined goal difference of 21-3.