Local soccer: Betar, Hap TA finish in stalemate

Things remained the same atop the Israeli Premier League table on Sunday after Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem played out a high-tempo 1-1 draw.

betar hapoel 298 88 (photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
betar hapoel 298 88
(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Things remained the same atop the Israeli Premier League table on Sunday after Hapoel Tel Aviv and Betar Jerusalem played out a high-tempo 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night, with both goals coming in one stunning second half minute. The ground was packed to its 16,000 capacity with some 4,000 Jerusalem fans making the trip. The result means that neither side look like catching runaway leader Maccabi Haifa for the title, while Betar remains in second place, one point above Hapoel. After a difficult start under French general manager Luis Fernandez, the supporters of the yellow-and-black have been satisfied witht he recent play of their newly put together side, which has retained the hope of playing in the UEFA Cup next year if they finish the season in second. Outgoing Tel Aviv coach Dror Kashtan can be satisfied with his team s performance, following the shock 2-1 last-minute home defeat by lowly Hapoel Kfar Saba last week. Both goals were scored just after half time. Less than 60 seconds after Hapoel defender Tal Hen powered a header past Betar keeper Itzik Korfein, the Jerusalem side leveled through striker Barak Itzhaki. Betar dominated for much of the first half while the reds took the majority of the possession in the second period. For the home side it was former Betar player Yossi Abuksis who ran the show in midfield. Abuksis was at the center of many of Hapoel s best moves, and took the corner which provided the cross for Hen s goal. Betar showed much quality throughout the team, but Congolese midfielder Mazua Ensombo shined in the center of the field, constantly breaking up the Tel Aviv attacks and providing neat touches to help his team push forward. The game began at a frantic pace, with each of the teams hoping to capitalize on the charged atmosphere. Just two minutes after the kick off, Betar s Spanish striker David Aganzo slid into Hapoel goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech, getting nowhere near the ball, but no yellow card was given. The game appeared to come alive in the 18th minute. A surging run by Hapoel s Shai Abutbul was stopped by defender Tomer Haliva and sent for a corner. From the kick, Ensombo pushed forward and although he was fouled, the ball fell to Jerome Leroy who broke into the final third and laid it off to Fabrice Fernandes, who crossed for Leroy. The Frenchman s header was goal-bound before Abuksis blocked the header. Two minutes before the interval Aganzo took the game on his own shoulders, as he dribbled past four Hapoel defenders, twisting and turning in the penalty area, but his final shot went just wide of the goal. The goals came in the 47th minute. A Walid Badir shot was pushed away by Korfein, but the Betar Å’keeper was helpless to stop Hen s header from the resulting corner. But the Hapoel fan s had little time to celebrate when Itzhaki took advantage of a Tel Aviv defensive mix-up and latched on to lovely pass from Fernandes to fire home. The game descended into a tight midfield battle, but neither team could take the advantage and the game ended in a stalemate.