Surprising Betar handles Maccabi TA 1-0

Win is J’lem’s first in seven games; Tel Aviv denied chance to tie Hapoel at top.

Eliran Atar 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Eliran Atar 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
After six games without a victory, Betar Jerusalem returned to winning ways on Monday night, defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
A 63rd-minute Amit Ben-Shushan goal was enough to secure a crucial three points for Yuval Naim’s side up to 11th place in the standings.
Maccabi, meanwhile, remained three points behind Hapoel Tel Aviv in second position, but Moti Ivanir’s squad failed to win for the fourth time in five games and left the crowd frustrated.
This makeshift Betar side proved once again it has the ability to raise its game against the top teams, having battled to a 1-0 loss at Hapoel Tel Aviv earlier this season. Jerusalem hosts Maccabi Haifa in two week’s time and will be confident of another positive performance.
For a team going through a rough patch, Betar was surprisingly sprightly at the start. Playing in its all-white away strip, the team from the capital bossed the game through the midfield, creating a slew of chances in the opening half hour.
Right back Eli Dasa should have done better when he was put through early on, only to boot the ball over the cross bar. And lone striker Ben- Shushan appeared to have fully recovered from an injury that kept him out for the last few weeks, causing the Tel Aviv defense all sorts of problems.
But while there was control in the middle, Jerusalem continuously failed to hit the target.
And it was far from all Betar. Maccabi undoubtedly has the far deeper squad, and as the first half drew to a close, the home team grew in confidence and began to impose its authority.
Eliran Atar had a golden opportunity to put Maccabi in front on 35 minutes when left back Yoav Ziv whipped in a cross from the byline.
But the striker could only manage to head wide of Betar goal-keeper Ohad Saidof’s right post, further increasing the frustration among the home support.
Coming off of the 2-1 Europa League defeat to Stoke City at Bloomfield Stadium last Thursday, Tel Aviv clearly had a point to prove.
However, for all its efforts, Maccabi found it difficult to get past the Jerusalem defense, and in particular second-string ’keeper Saidof, who showed an unexpected level quality.
And it was Jerusalem that went ahead in the 63rd. Another former youth player, Shay Hadad, headed an Aviram Bruchian cross against the goalpost and Ben-Shushan was quickest to react and knock the ball over the line to send the Beitar fans into delirium.
Maccabi attempted to get back into the game, pushing up at every opportunity.
And Atar came closest to scoring when he broke through the Betar defence and his shot hit the inside of the post only to bounce agonizingly back out.
For Betar, though, the situation is becoming even more difficult.
Since the deal to sell the club to a pair of Americans fell through in the summer the management was forced to build a makeshift team based almost entirely on players who came through the club’s youth system.
As the season has worn on, players have begun to show signs of inexperience and fatigue, and this was clear towards the end of the first half on Monday, such as when midfielder Dan Eibinder gave the ball away in his own penalty area and was lucky not to give away a goal.
At the same time, these youngsters sometimes displayed a level of exuberance.
When the game was going their way and the visitors managed to pass the ball around comfortably, they had the ability to scare Maccabi with unexpected uplifts of pace.
And with this surprising win, Betar’s youthful lineup has got its faithful supporters believing that the worst of the season is now behind them.