A Rade Prica goal in the 74th minute handed Maccabi Tel Aviv a 1-0 victory over Beitar Jerusalem
By no means a walk in the park, but tonight (Monday) Maccabi Tel Aviv showed their mettle by beating an improving Beitar Jerusalem side 1-0 in matchweek 25 of the Israeli Premier ("Winner") League. Played at Netanya Stadium, this tie now completes the club's two-match home fixture ban. The game started off seeing both sides testing the waters, with the first real opportunity coming in the 13th minute when a powerful shot by Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eran Zahavi from outside the area drew a leaping save from Beitar's international goalkeeper Ariel Harush. Nine minutes later a low cross from Maccabi winger Tal Ben Haim from the right passed the entire Beitar defence, but a sliding Dan Einbinder just missed getting a foot to it in front of the goalmouth. At the other end Beitar midfielder Ofir Kriaf found space in the Maccabi area and released a powerful shot that keeper Juan Pablo did well to push to safety. Five minutes later it was Eran Zahavi once again, this time outrunning four Beitar defenders to face the goal alone, but his low shot was kicked out of play by an onrushing Ariel Harush. The rest of the half passed without incident and the teams left the pitch after 45 minutes still deadlocked at 0-0.
After the restart it was the visitors who at first showed more resolve, and twenty minutes in they came close to scoring when a deflected free kick was returned into the five yard box where Beitar defender Nissim Kapiloto was the last man standing. But his outstretched effort found Juan Pablo alert to the danger and the shot was masterfully punched away. A minute later Beitar's Spanish defender Jonathan Vila missed an excellent opportunity when he sliced an accurate cross wide of the Maccabi net from inside the area. At the other end Maccabi too saw a chance go begging when Eran Zahavi, out-jumping his markers in the area, headed a long ball on to the crossbar and over. But it was sixteen minutes from time that the moment Maccabi fans had been waiting for finally arrived. Substitute winger Dor Micha, in space on the right, crossed over the Beitar defence to Swedish striker Rade Prica, who chested the ball down and with the tip of his boot flicked it over the keeper into the Beitar net, sending home fans into wild celebrations and giving the home side their 1-0 advantage. Ten minutes from time Beitar nearly equalised when striker Shlomi Azulay hit the crossbar, but after four minutes of extra time the score still stood at 1-0 as Maccabi returned their lead at the top of the Israeli Premier League to four points.
Next week, in the final matchweek before the play-offs, Maccabi finally return to Bloomfield Stadium to play their second Tel Aviv derby of the season as guests of Hapoel Tel Aviv.