Local Soccer: Betar consolidates top spot

Narrowly beats Hapoel Petah Tikva 1-0; Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Ashdod SC 0; Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 0, Mac Netanya 1; Bnei Yehuda 2, Mac Petah Tikva 1.

ben shushan betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
ben shushan betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem consolidated its position at the top of the Israeli Premier League but looked shaky in its 1-0 victory over Hapoel Petah Tikva, coming close to letting in two goals in the last few minutes. Yossi Mizrahi's side had to work hard against an adamant Petah Tikva side, which concentrated on its defensive duties and looked content to play man behind ball. A vital Amit Ben-Sushan goal in the second half was enough to make the difference. Following its superb 2-1 victory over Glasgow Rangers in the UEFA Cup on Wednesday Nir Levin's Hapoel Tel Aviv snapped a three-game winless streak in the league with a valuable 1-0 win over Ashdod SC at Bloomfield. Meanwhile, improving Maccabi Netanya had no problems humbling Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 1-0, in a tricky away fixture. Elsewhere, a Lior Asulin brace gave Bnei Yehuda a 2-1 win over visiting Maccabi Petah Tikva, while Hapoel Kfar Saba overcame an early deficit against Maccabi Herzliya and registered a 3-1 win in a thrilling Hasharon derby. Defending champion Maccabi Haifa will have a chance to get its domestic season back on track on Sunday at Kiryat Eliezer, when it plays host to archrival Maccabi Tel Aviv. Eli Cohen's Tel Aviv is riding an impressive 15-game unbeaten streak. The yellow-and-blue will have to manage without key defender Yuval Spungin, who is suffering from a serious thigh strain. Avi Nimni is expected to be in Cohen's starting eleven, after fully recovering from a nagging leg injury which he sustained last month. Betar Jerusalem 1, Hapoel Petah Tikva 0 Around 3,000 Betar faithful witnessed an Elnatan Salami goal in the first minute of the game. But they were relieved to see it disallowed due to a foul on Betar goalkeeper Itzik Korenfein. The yellow-and-black soon settled down and started dictating the tempo, but failed to translate its domination on the field into goals, as Petah Tikva played a tough defensive game and denied the visitors easy chances. Betar Striker Toto Tamuz was marked tightly by Ze'ev Haimovich and failed to impress. Petah Tikva's defense eventually collapsed in the 61st minute, when substitute Amit Ben-Shushan headed in a Michael Zandberg cross. Maor Buzaglo had a chance to level the score in the 88th minute, but his overhead kick missed the target by just a few inches. "We started very well," Mizrahi said after the tight win. "But after 30 minutes, we lost patience and failed to play our game. A second goal would have been nice, but I'm not complaining." Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Ashdod SC 0 Looking for his first league win as Hapoel Tel Aviv coach, Nir Levin fielded a surprising formation. Regular starters Yossi Abuksis and Elyaniv Barda were benched, with Ibazito Ogabuna and Gil Vermut getting their chance to prove themselves in the starting lineup. The hosts needed just 16 minutes to score, with Salim Toema doing the damage yet again with his trademark finishing. Baruch Dego made a slick dribble in the midfield and found the unmarked Toema, who's shot from edge of the box flew past Ashdod goalkeeper Sammy Adjei. Tel Aviv stepped up the pressure in the second half and came close to scoring on numerous occasions, but Adjei produced a string of acrobatic saves. Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan 0, Maccabi Netanya 1 The Ramat Gan defense was put under pressure from the kick-off, with Netanya cleverly using the flanks to create inroads towards the host's goal. Netanya host Reuven Atar's attacking formation produced quick results. Itai Shechter did the job for the visitors. The tenacious forward took control of the ball outside the penalty area and unleashed a lethal piledriver. Israel Philosoph was caught out of position and Netanya took the lead for good in the 16th minute. "We are playing well right now," Atar said after the win. "There is still a lot of room for improvement. We have to show more resolve in front of goal and make more of our chances. This team has many young players and things should get better as the season advances." Bnei Yehuda 2, Maccabi Petah Tikva 1 Maccabi opened the game with an attacking formation and took the lead in the sixth minute. Omer Golan lost his marker and fired in the ball from close range. But the oranges turned the tide in the second half, thanks to a inspiring performance by Lior Asulin. The dynamic forward scored the equalizer in the 52nd minute and added his second in the 82nd to give his side the dramatic win. Maccabi Herzliya 1, Hapoel Kfar Saba 3 Omer Buksenboim gave the hosts the early lead after making the most of a mix-up in the Kfar Saba defense. The visitors got back to level terms just five minutes later, when Nigerian striker Samuel Yeboah applied a trademark close range finish. The rest of the game was controlled by Eli Ohana's side, which punished Herzliya twice. Ben Luz converted a penalty in the 22nd minute and Brazilian marksman Jose Duarte converted from a difficult angle in the 57th minute to seal the fate of the game.