Local Soccer: Kiryat Shmona breezes past Betar to boost survival hopes
Hapoel wins Petah Tikva derby to ensure top-flight status; Hakoach ties with Ashdod; Mac TA dents Bnei Yehuda's UEFA dream with late win at Bloomfield.
By JONNY HADI
Ironi Kiryat Shmona appears to have hit form just at the right time. A week after walloping Maccabi Netanya 3-1 away from home, the northerners returned to the north and swept aside Betar Jerusalem 2-0, a score line that, quite frankly, flattered the reigning champion.
Ironi's win, together with relegation-fight rival Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan's scoreless draw at home to Ashdod, meant Ran Ben-Shimon's men climbed off the bottom of the table thanks to a superior goal difference.
In other action Saturday, Hapoel won the Petah Tikva derby for the first time in four years and ensured its place in the top flight for next season.
Elsewhere, a stunning strike by Maccabi Tel Aviv substitute Dan Roman ended Bnei Yehuda's impressive run of results and dented its European chances, while Maccabi Netanya could only manage a 0-0 draw at Sakhnin.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2, Betar Jerusalem 0
Whether it was due to end-of-season fatigue or cup final focus, Betar just wasn't at the races and should have fallen behind as early as the sixth minute.
However, Kiryat Shmona's Yuval Avidor opted for power instead of placement when he was sent clear by Guy Tzarfati's searching ball and struck it straight at Tvrtko Kale in the Betar goal.
The home side soon went ahead, though. Tzarfati again found Avidor, whose shot from a tight angle came back off the post for Yero Bello to fire in the rebound.
Kale then kept Betar in the game with a vital interception to deny Bello his second from Avidor's center.
Ironi's dominance continued after the break and the hosts deservedly doubled their lead just past the hour mark. Tomer Swissa and Todor Kolev combined to set to Salah Hasarma, who thumped in a thunderous drive from 23 meters out.
Betar had to wait until 12 minutes before time for its first shot on target when Barak Itzhaki's effort from the edge of the box was tipped over the bar by Danny Amos.
Ben-Shimon commended his players, but wasn't getting carried away with the win. "Just like we haven't dropped our heads too low in defeat, we won't lift our heads too high in victory," said the Kiryat Shmona coach. "We look good, but this isn't the end of the road."
"The team that has the most character and commitment will stay up," he added.
Maccabi Tel Aviv 2, Bnei Yehuda 1
Maor Buzaglo smashed in the opener for Maccabi after a quarter of an hour following Scott Sealy's strike against the foot of the post, but the hosts were caught napping at the back for the equalizer 11 minutes before the break, allowing Pedro Galvan to steal in and nod home Oz Rali's teasing cross.
The game appeared to be heading for a draw when, in the 89th minute, Roman beat Ivan Garrido some 25 meters out and slammed his shot into the top corner to win it for Maccabi.
Hapoel Petah Tikva 2, Maccabi Petah Tikva 0
Ze'evik Zeltzer recorded his first win as Hapoel Petah Tikva coach in a derby that was lit up by Junior Viza's delightful goal seven minutes before half-time.
The Peruvian, who is on loan from Betar Jerusalem, picked up the ball on the edge of the box, and with a shimmy, a dummy and a step-over, beat four men before nonchalantly curling the ball into the top corner.
Shimon Abuhatzera sealed the victory nine minutes from time, collecting a pass from M'peti Nimba, spinning beyond Boban Grncarov and beating Ohad Cohen at his near post to lead the top-flight scoring charts.
A frustrated Grncarov was caught on camera sickeningly spitting at his opponent Gal Cohen, and Maccabi coach Ronny Levy vowed to discipline the Macedonian defender.
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