Local soccer: Betar starts thinking of championship

Team all but sews up Premier League title after a 2-0 win over second-placed Maccabi Netanya.

betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Betar Jerusalem all but sewed up the Israeli Premier League title with 12 games left to play on Sunday night after a 2-0 win over second-placed Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Idan Tal's long range free kick three minutes before half time gave the current league champion the lead and Gal Alberman capitalized on Netanya goalkeeper Liran Strauber's decision to go up the other end for a corner in the 90th minute. The result gave Betar an all but unassailable 11-point lead at the top of the standings. With Netanya its closest challenger it appears inevitable that coach Itzhak Schum will lead the yellow and black to a second consecutive championship. While the visitors did their best to threaten the Jerusalem goal, their efforts eventually proved fruitless. Youngsters Amit-Ben Shushan and Aviram Bruchian again put in star showings for Betar, but it was midfielder Alberman who put in the standout performance. Alberman was simply everywhere - breaking up attacks time and again in the center of the park and pushing up at every opportunity. Israel defender Dedi Ben-Dayan had a superb game for Netanya, attacking from the left back position and defending with aplomb. Netanya started the brighter, with Ben-Dayan leading the attacks from the back. The visiting side won two corners in quick succession in the opening minutes and Ben-Dayan went close with a header. It was end to end stuff from the offset with Romulo going close for the home team with a glancing header at the near post. Next it was Amit Ben-Shushan, looking for his third goal in as many games, who was denied at the last by Netanya's Costa Rican defender Luis Marin. Romulo was finding himself in offside positions time and again, frustrating the packed Teddy crowd. Betar had a sure penalty denied when Romulo was brought down in the box by Marin but the referee waved play on. Two minutes later order was restored when Tal fired in a free kick from some 25 meters out to put the hosts up 1-0. The Betar players didn't lift their foot off the gas at the start of the second half with Tal forcing a top class save from Liran Strauber in the Netanya goal on 51 minutes. The pace of the game had to slow down and after ten minutes of the second half it calmed somewhat. Netanya attempted to launch attacks straight down the middle but the Betar defensive partnership of Shimon Gershon and Arik Benado stood firm. Netanya slowly clawed their way back into the game and the tension rose as Betar appeared to be resting on its laurels. With just over 15 minutes to go, Frances Kioyo should have done better with a free header in the six yard box, but the ball sailed over the bar to the relief of the nervous crowd. A minute later Tzagai Yehiel came close when he found space on the left and fired in a fierce shot which went wide. But Betar wasn't done yet. The introduction of Toto Tamuz for Romulo provided extra zing in attack and the youngster couldn't believe it when he did all the hard work on the left only to see Ben-Shushan somehow lob the ball over the cross bar from the goal line. As injury time approached Netanya won a corner and Strauber went up to provide an extra man. But his tactic backfired and Betar broke immediately. With the Netanya goalkeeper stuck in the center circle, Alberman shot into the empty net from 30 meters out to secure the three points, and perhaps the championship.