Local Soccer: Betar Jerusalem crowned champion

Yellows win Israel Premier League after Maccabi Tel Aviv deducted two points for financial irregularities.

betar crush 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
betar crush 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Betar Jerusalem was crowned Israel Premier League champions on Monday after the Israel Football Association Court deducted two points from its title challenger Maccabi Tel Aviv for financial irregularities involving the contract of Ivan Razich. Even if Maccabi Tel Aviv wasn't punished, Betar had only needed two more points to claim its first championship in nine years after Sunday's 2-0 defeat of Hapoel Petah Tikva. Sunday's victory was marred after the final whistle when thousands of its fans stormed the pitch to celebrate with the players. Several fans were injured and had to be taken to the hospital. The scenes were reminiscent of the 2001 Maccabi Haifa championship celebration, when teenager Amir Rand suffered serious injury. Betar dominated Sunday's match from the start and the side cruised to the three points after taking a lead in the 11th minute. Petah Tikva, which clinched relegation last week after losing 6-1 to Maccabi Haifa, failed to take advantage of the moments when Betar sat back, and couldn't translate its second half possession into an equalizer. There was never any doubt who would score first and Jerusalem's early pressure finally paid off in the 11th minute. Good buildup play by Michael Zandberg was completed by Barak Itzhaki, who slotted in his fifth goal of the season from the center of the penalty area. Itzhaki was sure he doubled his club's lead three minutes later when he was first to Gal Alberman's shot which hit the post, but the goal was correctly disallowed after the forward was determined to be offside. In the 25th minute, Petah Tikva was surprisingly close to getting an equalizer after Idan Srur hit the crossbar with a curling free kick from 30 meters. Itzhaki twice came close to scoring with bicycle kicks in the first half, with the second going just wide from Alberman's accurate pass in the 37th minute. Zandberg recorded Betar's first chance of the second half five minutes after the interval when he hit a left-footed shot that went just wide of Rafi Cohen's post. Two minutes later, Hapoel was only denied a goal by 'keeper Itzik Korenfein, who turned away Yaniv Luzon's dangerous shot. In the 76th minute, Itzhaki was again close to his second goal of the match, but his volley from Zandberg's pass went wide of the Petah Tikva goal. Four minutes before the final whistle, Maoz Samia ended any lingering hope Petah Tikva had of leaving Teddy with a point when he was sent off after being shown his second yellow card of the match. Two minutes later, Betar substitute Aviram Bruchian put the outcome of the match beyond doubt. The midfielder struck a superb shot with the outside of his right foot that gave Cohen no chance and edged Betar ever closer to the title.