Local Soccer: Jerusalem heading for historic double

Betar can clinch league title with a weekend draw at home vs Maccabi Netanya.

betar 298.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
betar 298.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Four days after winning its first State Cup in 19 years, Betar Jerusalem can clinch an historic league and cup double on Saturday as long as it avoids defeat against Maccabi Netanya at Teddy Stadium. Betar is six points in front of Netanya and with just three matches to be played the reigning champion can effectively claim its second straight title even with a single point on Saturday, thanks to its far superior goal-difference over the league's second-place team. Jerusalem is entering the match on the back of a three-game losing streak in the league. Itzhak Schum's team lost once in its first 26 league matches of the season, but was simply outplayed in its last three matches against Hapoel Tel Aviv, Ashdod SC and Bnei Yehuda, failing to recapture the form which gave it an unassailable lead at the top of the standings so early in the season. Betar, which will host Maccabi Herzliya in its postponed match on Tuesday, announced on Thursday that should the team secure the championship in its next two matches it will hold the official double celebrations at Saker Park next Thursday. There had been considerable controversy late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning when some 10,000 Betar fans waited for the team in Safra Square outside the Jerusalem Municipality building only to find out at around 2 a.m. that the players were traveling to the Hauman 17 nightclub elsewhere in the city. An estimated 3,000 fans waited outside the club late into the night but were disappointed when only a few of the players even came outside to thank them. In other Premier League games, Avi Nimni will make his final appearance for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Saturday in the team's match against Maccabi Petah Tikva. "I'm very excited," Nimni told Army Radio on Thursday. "The most important thing, however, is that we win and then I can come on for the final five minutes. As far as I'm concerned I already retired last season and if it wasn't for our troubles at the start of this season I would have never played again. "This is an act of respect towards the crowd, who deserve to say goodbye to me properly." Nimni, one of Tel Aviv's all-time greats, sat out most of the season through injury, but was still very involved at the club in his other position as general manager. Earlier this season Maccabi's new owner Alex Shnaider told The Jerusalem Post he wants to keep Nimni involved in the club in the coming seasons although coach Nir Levin will be replaced by Kiryat Shmona coach Ran Ben-Shimon. Nimni, the Maccabi captain, guided the club to four championships and four cups and scored 194 league goals, third in the all-time list behind only Alon Mizrahi and Oded Machnes. A victory for Maccabi against Petah Tikva will all but secure that the club maintains its position as the only club to never have been relegated from the Premier League. Meanwhile, Bnei Yehuda will look to extend its league-best six game winning streak on Saturday when it hosts Hapoel Kfar Saba. Bnei Yehuda, which defeated Betar at Teddy last week, hasn't conceded a goal since the end of March and will leapfrog Kfar Saba with a victory on Saturday. Also Saturday, the league's two bottom teams face must-win home matches. Yossi Mizrahi will guide last-place Ashdod SC against Ironi Kiryat Shomna, his first match in charge since rejoining the club on Wednesday. Maccabi Herzliya, which hosts Bnei Sakhnin, is tied on points with Ashdod, but does have one match in hand. On Sunday, Hapoel Tel Aviv can guarantee its survival with a victory over Maccabi Haifa at Bloomfield Stadium.