Joyous Jerusalem captures second straight

Betar beats Mac PT to climb out of relegation zone, replaced by Hap BS; K8 17 points clear.

Betar Jerusalem players after win_370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Betar Jerusalem players after win_370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Betar Jerusalem scored more than one goal in a match for just the third time this season on Saturday, climbing out of the relegation zone with a 3-2 victory over Maccabi Petah Tikva at the Moshava Stadium.
Betar hadn’t scored a pair in a match in more than two months and hadn’t netted three since August, but it needed just 34 minutes to move into a 3-1 lead in Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Avi Rikan gave Betar the lead in the 13th minute with his first league goal of the season, with his left-footed shot from the edge of the area taking a deflection on its way into the back of the net.
Petah Tikva was back on level terms just four minutes later, with Omer Golan finishing off a swift team move started by Danny Preda.
But just three more minutes passed before Leonardo Passos Alves headed Betar back in front and Jerusalem had a two-goal cushion in the 34th minute after Rikan’s shot was saved by Robi Levkovich only to hit the post and roll over the line off defender Ori Uzan.
Petah Tikva got back into the match in the 72nd minute thanks to Andriy Pylyavskyi’s own goal, but Betar held on for its second straight win to move up to 12th place.
Only four points now separate 11thplaced Hapoel Haifa, which visits Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday, and Hapoel Rishon Lezion in 15th after the latter won consecutive matches for the first time since the second week of the season on Saturday, beating Ashdod SC 2-1.
Hapoel Beersheba was hoping to claim its third straight win on Saturday, but instead it was crushed 5-1 at Bnei Yehuda and dropped into the relegation zone due to Petah Tikva’s superior goal difference.
Oz Raly (14) and Amir Agajev (18) put Bnei Yehuda in control and any hope Beersheba had of making a comeback after Ido Eksbard’s 37th-minute strike was emphatically extinguished by goals from Pedro Galvan (60, 87) and Shalev Menashe (83).
Bnei Sakhnin climbed to third place on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Hapoel Petah Tikva courtesy of goals from Kostadin Hazurov (9), Ahmed Kasoum (64) and Ohad Kadusi (81).
Maccabi Netanya clinched a place in the championship playoffs on Saturday with a 1-0 road win at Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.
Nir Nahum scored the only goal of the match in the ninth minute.
At the top of the table, Ironi Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon admitted on Saturday that his side has effectively clinched the league title after moving 17 points clear at the top of the standings with a 2-0 home win over Hapoel Acre.
Acre’s Moshe Mishaelof gifted Kiryat Shmona the lead on the verge of halftime and the northerners secured the victory five minutes into the second half thanks to Shlomi Azulai’s header.
“We have won the championship, now we just have to make sure we keep hold of it,” Ben-Shimon said.
Second-placed Hapoel Tel Aviv can cut Kiryat Shmona’s lead by three points with a win at Maccabi Haifa on Monday, but the gap at the top will likely be even greater than 17 points by then.
Hapoel is expected to be deducted points by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Sunday for its fans’ unruliness in last week’s 1-0 derby defeat to Maccabi Tel Aviv.