Local Soccer: Betar sent packing by dominant Hapoel TA

Gutman's side gets back to winning ways with 4-0 effort to move into second place.

betar (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Hapoel Tel Aviv got its title campaign back on track on Monday night with a stunning 4-0 victory over reigning champion Betar Jerusalem in front of 16,000 fans at Bloomfield Stadium. After losing 3-0 to Bnei Yehuda last week, Hapoel has more than returned to form. The result ensured that Eli Gutman's team leapfrogged Maccabi Netanya into second place in the Premier League standings, only four points off league-leader, Maccabi Haifa. The final score, however, did not do justice to the performance of the team from the capital, which hit the crossbar or post on at least five occasions. But Betar coach Reuven Atar knows that his chances of leading the yellow and black to a third consecutive league championship are practically over, with his team languishing in fourth place, 11 points behind Haifa. Maharan Lala scored in each half for the hosts, while Douglas Da Silva and Bibras Natcho got the other two. Games between these two clubs are always highly tense and atmospheric affairs. And with the match being played on the eve of the Israeli election it felt as if political pride was at stake nearly as much as the three league points up for grabs. Israeli soccer clubs have traditionally been aligned with political movements, with Betar connected with the right-wing Likud and Hapoel with the more left-wing parties. So the excitement in the packed Bloomfield stadium was already at fever pitch even before a ball had been kicked. And the game got off to a fittingly pulsating start. While Hapoel started the brighter of the two, it was Betar which so nearly went ahead in the fourth minute when Dario Fernandez hit a sweetly struck shot from outside the area. The Argentinean's effort beat Vincent Enyeama in the Tel Aviv goal but thundered against his left post. Due to injuries and the sale of Yoav Ziv to Lokeren last month, Jerusalem had been forced to play 37-year-old David Amsalem at center back. However the veteran captain showed why he is still a crucial member of the Betar squad, with some classy skill to shield the ball when under pressure from the Hapoel attackers in the opening exchanges. Tel Aviv made its dominance count in the 14th when it carved out its first real scoring opportunity. Lala should have put the ball in the back of the net, but the youngster scuffed his shot from a Ben Luz pass only a few meters from the goal. A minute later, Betar goalie Ariel Harush made a last-gasp save from Samuel Yeboah, who shot practically on the goal line, and the game stayed scoreless. As befitting a game of this stature, it was end-to-end action throughout the first half, with Toto Tamuz bursting into life on occasions, including one fiery shot which forced a diving save from Enyeama. The opening goal came seven minutes before half, when Yeboah put the ball in the box from the right and Lala volleyed in. The Betar defense was suddenly all over the place, and just four minutes later, Da Silva made it 2-0 when he headed in a cross from Shai Abutbul from close range. Knowing it was make-or-break time, Jerusalem pushed forward as the second half began and Barak Itzhaki forced a stunning save from Enyeama with an excellent scissor kick before Toto Tamuz headed against the bar. Six minutes later, Betar's Idan Vered hit the cross-bar with a perfect shot from outside the area but Jerusalem still couldn't pierce the actual goal. The visitors went all-out for the winner and were made to pay in the 65th. Amsalem was left alone at the back as Yeboah raced forward on to a through ball and clipped it over to Lala, who made no mistake chipping over Harush to put his team 3-0 ahead. When Natcho knocked the ball in to make it 4-0 five minutes later the game was all but over. To add insult to injury, Betar's substitute defender Shmuel Kozikin was sent off for a foul on Abutbul with 18 minutes still to play. The home crowd was predictably in raptures, sarcastically applauding the Betar passer as the clock wound down.