Local Soccer: Betar beats Haifa to go 8 points clear

They say that teams that win league titles are those which win even when they play badly.

betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
They say that teams that win league titles are those which win even when they play badly. On a freezing Tuesday night at Teddy Stadium Betar Jerusalem did exactly that, producing a workman-like performance to beat Maccabi Haifa 1-0 and go eight points clear at the top of the Israeli Premier League. A 16th minute Amit Ben-Shushan goal from close range was enough to secure the three points, and it will now take a herculean effort to prevent the yellow and black from taking a second title in succession. It all could have been so different had Renato scored a penalty for Haifa in the 45th minute. But Tvrtko Kale produced the save of the game and Jerusalem emerged victorious in a match that had been postponed after an electrical fire at Teddy 10 days ago. Betar coach Itzhak Schum was rightly disappointed with his team's style of play in the second half. "Haifa played well and in the second half our players settled for 1-0, which I am not happy with but the most important thing was the win," Schum told reporters after the game. For most of the game Betar huffed and puffed, with the midfield duo of Gal Alberman and Derek Boateng lunging at challenges with little finesse, while Haifa played far more attractive soccer. This was not the impressive passing display that Betar produced on Saturday against Ironi Kiryat Shmona. "They played very well, they kept the ball and continued attacking. You could see they came here to win," Boateng told The Jerusalem Post after the game. Explaining why he felt the Betar players sat back in the second half he added, "Some of the players were tired after playing in Kiryat Shmona a few days ago. In any case these are a very important three points for us and I am very satisfied." The first wave of Betar attacks came after five minutes when Idan Tal skipped into the box and sent in a clever cross, which was pushed away for a corner by the Maccabi defense. The corner fell to Yoav Ziv, who fired in a shot from outside the area, which flew over the bar for a goal kick. Haifa was not holding back, with the South African pairing of Fentini and Peter Messila combining well with Renato. But the Betar defense was up to the task, especially Yoav Ziv who saved a number of Kale blunders in the first half with last gasp headers. Kale was weak in between the posts, often punching when he should have been able to catch or at least deal with the ball more efficiently. When the breakthrough came it proved decisive. Boateng played the ball to Aviram Bruchian on the right who swept it across the goal mouth for Ben-Shushan to score his second goal in as many games. A messy Haifa move ended with a Boccoli shot which went well wide, summing up Haifa's efforts in the first 45 minutes. Until the penalty miss. Betar striker Romulo was back defending when he handled a Gustavo Boccoli cross and the referee pointed to the spot. Renato stepped up, took a short run up and looked stunned when Kale dived to his left hand side and saved expertly, pushing the ball away for a corner. Haifa came out flying in the second half, constantly putting pressure on the Betar defense. Substitute Omri Afek had the best chance of the night for the visitors when left back Messila crossed but the former Betar midfielder missed from a meter out. Afek himself crossed for Yaniv Katan five minutes later who slipped in the box and missed a similar chance. Schum brought on center back Tomer Ben-Yosef for Ben-Shushan with five minutes to go and played five at the back for the last few minutes to ensure Maccabi would have little chance of grabbing an equalizer.