Hasarma’s stoppage time goal gives defending champion all three points in season opener.
By ALLON SINAI
Ironi Kiryat Shmona showed the heart of a champion on Saturday night, beginning its Premier League title defense with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Betar Jerusalem thanks to Salah Hasarma’s winner four minutes into injury time.Kiryat Shmona raced into a 2-0 lead after just 10 minutes, but Betar seemed to be heading towards a deserved point when Liron Diamant equalized in the 90th minute.However, the defending champion struck in the 94th minute when Hasarma’s freekick from 20 meters out took a wicked deflection and rolled into the back net beyond helpless ‘keeper Ariel Harush.“I’m really happy we managed to claim this win,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Gili Landau, whose team hosts BATE Borisov in the second leg of the Champions League playoffs on Tuesday after losing the first leg 2-0 in Belarus.“The key to this match was in our attitude.Teams often struggle in league play after playing in Europe and it was important for us to display a balanced match. Sometimes you have to claim ugly wins by the skin of your teeth and we did that tonight.”Kiryat Shmona needed just 40 seconds to score its first goal of the season, with Barak Badash taking advantage of Betar’s weak defense.AdvertisementThe match looked to be all but over in the 10th minute thanks to Laszlo Lencse’s great finish from the edge of the area.However, Betar burst into life three minutes later after Avi Rikan scored what is an early candidate for goal of the season, firing a unstoppable effort from 20 meters out.Jerusalem was by far the more dangerous team in the second half, with Kiryat Shmona goalkeeper Danny Amos singlehandedly keeping the hosts in front.However, Betar leveled the score in the 90th minute when referee Eitan Shmuelevitch dubiously allowed Diamant’s equalizer to stand even though the linesman lifted his flag for an offside.But justice was done four minutes later when Kobi Moyal needlessly gifted Kiryat Shmona a free kick and Hasarma’s deflected shot gave the hosts all three points.“We played well throughout the second half and deserved a draw and even a win,” said Betar coach Eli Cohen. “This should have been our match, but this can happen in soccer. Our inexperience cost us, but our young players proved themselves tonight and we will improve with every match.”Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Netanya drew 0-0 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, with Hapoel Beersheba also only managing a goalless deadlock at home against Bnei Sakhnin.“We are all very disappointed,” said new Beersheba coach Elisha Levy, who lost Diya Saba to a red card in the 89th minute. “We had to rebuild this team in the summer and we will have to be patient.”Murad Abu Anza didn’t take long to prove that he has the talent to play in the topflight after scoring twice on Saturday to give Ashdod SC a 2-0 home victory over Hapoel Ramat Hasharon.Abu Anza was one of the National League’s best players at Bnei Lod last season and the 25-year-old scored in the eighth and 52nd minutes, with midfielder Nir Biton, who returned from trials at Manchester City and Tottenham, setting up both goals.Hapoel Acre and Bnei Yehuda drew 1-1 on Saturday, with Shalev Menashe scoring on the brink of halftime before Nebojsa Marinkovic equalized from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half.Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Hapoel Ramat Gan on Sunday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv hosting Maccabi Haifa on Monday.
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