Local Soccer: Betar Jerusalem is back in first

Man-advantage in second half leads to lopsided victory at Teddy.

betar jlem 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar jlem 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Brazilian striker Kleber Schwenk finally made his mark for Betar Jerusalem on Sunday night, winning a penalty, setting up one goal and scoring a third in a 4-1 victory over Maccabi Haifa. After weeks of criticism and pressure, Yossi Mizrahi's team produced the performance its fans had been hoping for and outplayed a Haifa team that had held Spanish club Espanyol to a 0-0 draw in a UEFA Cup match only a few days earlier. Schwenk had not scored in a league match since moving to Israel in January, but on Sunday he made amends. Haifa took the lead in the 18th minute through Roberto Colautti, but Schwenk's mazy run in the 46th minute led to a penalty, which was scored by Chilean Milovan Mirosevic. In five second-half minutes, Schwenk set up Gal Albermanm, who fired in to take the lead, and then the Brazilian scored to make it three before he was substituted to a standing ovation. With four minutes to go, substitute Aviram Bruchian gave Betar its fourth goal to cap the scoring and send the hosts back to the top of the Premier League standings. Even though the match ended at a frantic pace in the heated atmosphere at Teddy Stadium, it began much slower with a midfield battle. Suddenly, Haifa broke the deadlock. Defender Alon Harazi ran down the right wing and sent a perfect looping cross onto the head of Israel international Colautti who was on target with his powerful shot past Jerusalem 'keeper Itzik Korenfein. The hosts were stunned, the home crowd silent and Haifa clearly energized by the goal. Betar attempted to push forward and find an equalizer, but passes went astray and it was unable to break down Haifa's defense for most of the half. The penalty in injury time changed the face of the game. Schwenk was tripped in the box by Xavier Andersson and referee Moshe Bochbot had no choice but to point straight to the penalty spot. Mirosevic stepped up and, although his shot was stopped by Nir Davidovitch the first time, he knocked the rebound home. Initially, Andersson was given a yellow card, but it was changed to a red after he argued with the referee. Coach Roni Levy was also shown a red card for comments made to the ref and the pressure was on Haifa. The second half began slowly but ended with Betar in total control. The referee stopped the game for a few moments on 54 minutes because his back hurt. After a few rubs from a trainer and some stretches, the game was back underway. The delay clearly had no effect on Betar, which went straight back on the attack from the restart. A move involving Zandberg, Ziv, and Schwenk ended with Gal Alberman firing the ball past Davidovitch to give Betar a 2-1 lead with just over half an hour left in the match. Just two minutes later, it was 3-1 when Haifa defender Dekel Keinan lost the ball in the penalty area and Schwenk nipped in to score. Bruchian put the icing on the cake with his goal two minutes from the end.