It took Rade Prica just two minutes to put Maccabi Tel Aviv ahead of Beitar Jerusalem, with fellow striker Barak Itzhaki adding a second five minutes before the break. Beitar's Brazilian forward Bryan Jones pulled one back seven minutes from time
Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Beitar Jerusalem 1-2 tonight at the capital's "Teddy" Stadium courtesy of goals from strikers Rade Prica and Barak Itzhaki. The visitors took an early lead when Swedish forward Prica took advantage of a weak Beitar defence and latched onto a pass from midfielder Eran Zahavi just outside the area and left-footed a shot past keeper Ariel Harush into the lower left-hand corner of the Beitar net. Five minutes from half time it was again a defensive error by the home side that fed a through pass in the area to an unmarked Barak Itzhak,i who fired home Maccabi's second. With the match already winding down in the second half and a Maccabi victory looking assured, Beitar Jerusalem's young Brazilian forward Bryan Jones (Anicezio) came off the substitute's bench and seven minutes from time found space in the Maccabi half and let fly a superb shot that whistled past Juan Pablo high into the net, leaving the Maccabi keeper no chance of getting a hand to it. The goal energised the home side and gave Maccabi an anxious few minutes as the match came to a close. But the visitors fended off any further challenges and Maccabi returned home with all three points.
After the disarray of falling behind in the opening moments of the match through the combined efforts of Maccabi's Eran Zahavi and Rade Prica, Beitar Jerusalem quickly recovered and got themselves back into the match, pressing forward into the goal area of Maccabi keeper Juan Pablo. Real scoring chances, however, escaped them and it was left to Maccabi defender Omri Ben Harush and striker Itzhaki to test the waters from outside the area but their efforts found Beitar keeper Ariel Harush at the ready. It was not until halfway through the first period that Beitar challenged Juan Pablo's resolve, when a long ball by midfielder Aviram Baruchyan was brought down skillfully by winger Sintyahu Solelich, but he shot straight at the Maccabi keeper. Seven minutes from half time Eran Zahavi missed an excellent opportunity to double the Maccabi advantage, shooting wide from an open position, but it was two minutes later that Barak Itzhaki took an errant pass from an opposition defender in the area and succeeded in finding the back of the Beitar net, foregoing the usual post-goal celebrations out of respect for his former club. Before the half-time whistle blew Itzhaki had yet another opportunity to add a third goal to Maccabi's lead, but his close-range effort flew high over the Beitar goal.
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned from the break with the same energy they displayed in the opening moments of the first half, with winger Tal Ben Haim seeing an excellent opportunity blocked by an onrushing Ariel Harush. Ten minutes later it was again Ben Haim, now as provider, who artfully found Rade Prica alone in front of Harush, but the striker shot straight at the Beitar keeper. In contrast to the first half, Maccabi head coach Paulo Sousa's side saw more of the ball and dictated the pace of the second half, keeping their opponents at arm's length from their goal. But just as the match seemed to be winding down to a foreseeable conclusion, Beitar called Brazilian Bryan Jones off the bench and the young striker added a touch of urgency to the Beitar attack. His industry was rewarded seven minutes from time when he found space outside the Maccabi area and let fly with a magnificent shot that left Maccabi keeper helpless as it slammed into the upper corner of the Maccabi net. The goal energised the home side and they began to press forward in search of an equaliser, with Baruchyan shooting wide from inside the Maccabi area.
The referee added four minutes extra time to the match but Beitar fell short of their objective, enabling Maccabi Tel Aviv to claim their ninth victory of the season with just one match remaining, the momentous Tel Aviv Derby against Hapoel Tel Aviv next Monday, in the first round of Israeli Premier League fixtures. But for the time being the team will focus all their energies on preparing for this Thursday's final and crucial Europa League group stage match against FC Girondins de Bordeaux.