Local Soccer: Betar Jerusalem scrapes by with lucky win

Two Betar goals in three second half minutes gave the side a 2-1 victory over arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night.

betar hapoel 298 88 (photo credit: asaf kliger)
betar hapoel 298 88
(photo credit: asaf kliger)
Two Betar Jerusalem goals in three second half minutes gave the side a 2-1 victory over arch-rival Hapoel Tel Aviv at Bloomfield Stadium on Sunday night. Hapoel took the lead in the 39th minute thanks to new Brazilian signing Fabio Junior, but Romulo equalized with a header in the 76th and just three minutes later Barak Itzhaki completed a comeback, which seemed unlikely for large parts of the match. Hapoel striker Lior Asulin had numerous chances to secure his side's win, but ultimately the hosts would rue their missed chances as Betar clinched the win, to maintain its perfect start to the season. Hapoel and Betar cancelled each other out tactically at the start of the match. The capacity crowd at Bloomfield Stadium had to wait until the 13 th minute for the first shot on goal. Hapoel's Brazilian midfielder Abedi hit a speculative shot from 20 meters out, but it flew high over Tvrtko Kale's crossbar. The visitors had the lion's share of possession after Abedi's shot and Barak Itzhaki almost gave his side the lead in the 18th minute. Racing down the right flank, he fired off an excellent shot towards the bottom lefthand corner of Vincent Enyeama's goal, only to see the Nigerian 'keeper rescue his side with a fingertip save. Ten minutes later a moment of madness from Kale nearly cost Betar dearly. The Croatian rushed out of goal, but failed to beat Lior Asulin to the ball. The Hapoel striker headed over him, however luck was on Kale's side, as the ball sailed just over the crossbar. Four minutes later Asulin clumsily squandered another golden opportunity. The striker had all the time in the world to hit a shot and give his team the lead, after exchanging passes with Abedi. But he failed to connect with the ball meters from goal, allowing Kale to collect the ball easily. In the 39th minute Tel Aviv did, however, finally take the lead. Baruch Dego latched onto a throughball down the lefthand flank and sent in an instinctive low cross behind the defense. With the Hapoel backline caught off guard Junior slotted the ball into the net from three meters out. Five minutes later Jerusalem came tantalizingly close to tying the score after Gal Alberman's header from five meters went just wide of Enyeama's goal. Hapoel, however, came closer to scoring in the remainder of the half, with Kale only just keeping out Yigal Antebi's screamer from a tight angle. The hosts stifled Betar's attempts to equalize at the start of the second half and were desperately close to doubling their lead. In the 66th minute substitute Adi Savag set up Asulin, but Kale kept the ball out with an acrobatic save. Two minutes later defender Gabriel dos Santos should have placed his header in the back of the net, however, the Brazilian headed the ball well wide of the goal. Those two near misses came back to haunt Hapoel when Betar equalized in the 76th minute. Aviram Bruchian curled a corner in to the far post, Romulo rose highest and sent a powerful downward header into the bottom left corner, below Enyeama's outstretched glove. Three minutes later Asulin had the chance to redeem himself from his early misses, but once more it was Kale who came out on top in a one on one dual between the players. The hapless striker was clear through on goal with ample time to slot the ball past the 'keeper. However, showing no composure whatsoever, he could only hit his shot straight at Kale. Just seconds later Hapoel paid the price for their profligacy. Betar burst forward on an immediate counter-attack. Kale sent the ball forward. Romulo set up Itzhaki. The Betar forward broke through the Hapoel back-line and elegantly chipped the ball over Enyeama. Itzhaki's goal shocked Hapoel into submission and Betar coasted for the remainder of the match, clinching all three points. Matchday three of the Premier League will only be played in three weeks time after the Israel Football Association postponed next week's fixtures at the request of national team coach Dror Kashtan. A round of Toto Cup matches will be played instead, allowing Kashtan to begin his preparations for the England match (September 8) on Sunday, six days prior to the important qualifier.