Local Soccer: Hakoah and Betar battle to draw

Ramat Gan's Malmilian and Jerusalem's Mizrahi match wits.

ramat gan soccer 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
ramat gan soccer 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The celebrations will have to be put on hold. Despite a storming start, Betar Jerusalem was held to a 1-1 draw at Hakoah Amidar Ramat Gan Sunday night in the Premier League Matchday 29 finale. The team from the capital stretched its lead to eight points over second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv but is unlikely to win the league title next weekend. Two goals in the first 15 minutes made the fans believe they were in for a goal-fest. Veteran defender David Amsalem powered Betar into the lead after just eight minutes with a stunning volley and five minutes later, Ramat Gan scored an equalizer through striker Oshri Gita. But the match settled down into a tough midfield battle that forced both teams to settle for a point. The game was billed as a battle between two former Betar legends - Jerusalem coach Yossi Mizrahi and Ramat Gan coach Uri Malmilian both played for the yellow-and-black in the late '70s and early '80s. Betar was on top at the start and powered forward at the first opportunity, with on-form striker Barak Itzhaki shooting over the crossbar of Hakoach 'keeper Marshall Uda after a clever pass from Chilean Milovan Mirosevic in just the first minute. Four minutes later, Itzhaki had his second opportunity of the match when he turned and shot on the edge of the area to force a save by Uda. But Ramat Gan did not look like a team that intended to lie down and let the champion-elect take all three points with ease. The hosts came back on the counterattack with a shot from Shuki Nagra that forced a goal-line save from Betar defender Yoav Ziv. Amsalem, a veteran of Betar's last league title win in 1998, powered down the left wing in the seventh minute. His cross sailed past the heads of the Jerusalem attackers but came to Gal Alberman, who sent it back to Amsalem. The defender wasn't going to make a mistake and struck a sweet volley past the Ramat Gan 'keeper. The Betar fans were clearly delighted and in full song, but were soon silenced when Gita headed home from a perfect Daniel Heidman cross. Malmilian's squad took the game to Betar with Avi Tikva winning midfield battles against Mirosevic, but Betar's Derek Boateng took control. By midway through the first half, Hakoah was matching Betar ball for ball. On 25 minutes, Jerusalem center back Arik Benado had a chance to put the visitors back in the lead, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. And so it continued for the rest of the first half and well into the second. The introduction of Aviram Bruchian and Toto Tamuz didn't raise Betar's game and, despite a number of chances for both teams, the match ended in a stalemate.