Local soccer: Hapoel TA escapes last place

Maccabi Tel Aviv also recorded an important victory, while Betar's coach described Jerusalem's draw as "the worst this season."

hapoel TA soccer 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
hapoel TA soccer 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv managed to drag itself off the bottom of the standings on Saturday with a 1-0 win over city rival Bnei Yehuda at Bloomfield as the Israeli Premier League returned after a three-week winter break. But talk of a Hapoel resurgence may well be premature considering the unimpressive way Eli Gutman's team played to take only its third victory in 14 league games. Maccabi Tel Aviv also recorded an important victory on Saturday, but in a far more convincing fashion, outplaying Hapoel Kfar Saba in all departments to win 3-0 away from home. The result would no doubt have delighted Maccabi's new owner, the Canadian Alex Shnaider, who has yet to visit Israel to see his side play since purchasing the club last month. Premier League champion Betar Jerusalem remained undefeated in the league but coach Itzhak Schum was less than satisfied with his team's performance in a 1-1 tie at lowly Maccabi Herzliya. In other Premier League games Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Netanya cancelled each other out in a 0-0 draw and Ironi Kiryat Shmona was held 0-0 at Ashdod SC. Matchday 14 concludes on Sunday night when Maccabi Haifa visits Maccabi Petah Tikva. The Greens will be hoping to put the heat on Betar Jerusalem at the top of the table with a win and move into second. At Bloomfield, Bnei Yehuda was playing its first game under new coach Eli Cohen and piled the pressure on Hapoel from the kick off. Moshe Biton came close to scoring for Bnei Yehuda early on with two short range headers in the fifth and ninth minutes, signalling the southern Tel Aviv club's intent. Hapoel also had chances in the first half, although far fewer, but threw each one away. Bibres Natcho should have done better for the Reds just before the 15 minute mark when he wildly kicked out at a free kick from a few meters out but completely missed the ball and didn't make contact. The game featured Nigeria's top two goalkeepers who both impressed with their contributions - Nigerian number one Vincent Enyeama for Hapoel and Bnei Yehuda's Dele Aiyenugba both made significant stops. The turning point came in the 63rd minute when Bnei Yehuda's Salim Abu Siam was sent off for a second yellow card for fouling Idan Srur. Hapoel scored a minute later. The ball came to Baruch Dego who dribbled through the Bnei Yehuda defense and laid it off to Brazilian striker Fabio Junior. Junior turned deftly inside the six yard box to smash the ball into the roof of the net for his third of the season. The Reds grew in confidence after the goal and played better soccer but was unable to build on the lead. "We didn't play great soccer and this win is only the start of the road," said Gutman after the match. It was the coach's first win after two defeats since taking over from Guy Luzon at the end of last year. "We did everything we could not to disappoint our supporters and I am happy they are happy. I went personally to them at the end of the game to thank them." Hapoel Kfar Saba 0, Maccabi Tel Aviv 3 Maccabi continued its renaissance with a strong display against Eli Ohana's Kfar Saba side, although Tel Aviv remained in eighth position in the standings, six points below Kfar Saba. Hapoel's Douglas Da Silva scored an own goal in the 39th minute when he turned in a header from Yannick Kamanan to put the visiting side 1-0 up. Kamanan scored himself early in the second half when he knocked in a rebound after Rudy Hadad's header was saved. And Moshe Mishaelov wrapped up the win with a well taken third. Maccabi Herzliya 1, Betar Jerusalem 1 Betar coach Itzhak Schum described the match as "the worst this season" despite seeing his team continue its unbeaten run and stay nine points clear at the top of the standings. Michael Zandberg had an opportunity to take the lead for the visitors in the 19th minute but his fierce shot was saved by Herzliya goalkeeper Itamar Nitzan. Herzliya took a shock lead in the 35th minute when Congolese striker Tcham N'Toya received the ball six meters out and fired past Tvrtko Kale. Betar equalized six minutes into the second half through a simple Idan Tal goal and Schum threw on strikers Chen Azriel and Toto Tamuz in search of the winner but it was not to be for the champion. Bnei Sakhnin 0, Maccabi Netanya 0 Okocha came close for Netanya with a speculative volley early on but it sailed over Meir Cohen's goal. Maor Buzaglo continued his good form for Sakhnin and was denied by Netanya 'keeper Liran Strauber who dived at the youngster's feet late in the second half and the teams were forced to share the points. Ashdod SC 0, Ironi Kiryat Shmona 0 Idan Shriki was sent off in the 62nd minute for a foul in a disappointing encounter. Shai Holtzman was the worst offender, missing a number of good chances for Ashdod as both teams stumbled to a scoreless draw.