“We missed out on an opportunity,” began Beitar Head Coach Roni Levy following his side’s goalless draw with Hapoel Beer Sheva. “We had some good chances but we are content with the way we played and we are on the right path.”
It was crystal clear that after the final whistle blew that the Yellow & Black should have walked away with three points in the bag and that they came away with a missed opportunity against a good Beer Sheva squad but one that was beatable on this night. The southern Reds came into Teddy Stadium after returning from a 3:0 loss in Holland to Feyenoord in the Europa League Playoff Round and were also without a number of players who started the contest on the bench.
Without Ben Sahar, Hanan Maman, or ex-Beitar midfielder David Keltjens, who weren’t in the Starting XI, Beer Sheva were ripe for the taking, but somehow Beitar couldn’t find the back of the goal. Was it save after save by Lithuanian keeper Ernestas Setkus who almost made his home in the nation’s capital? Was it the lack of having a creative midfielder finding the open man on the attack? Or was it Beitar not yet having the experience to know how to take advantage of an opportunity handed to them on a silver platter against one of the league’s top squads?
Well, it’s a combination of all three.
Setkus had signed with Beitar in the middle of last season after having played for two campaigns with Hapoel Haifa in a move that was hailed as being brilliant by owner Moshe Hogeg. However, Setkus never quite pulled on a Yellow & Black kit as the club put their confidence in Itamar Nitzan who when called upon against Beer Sheva also was up to the task to keep a clean sheet. But Setkus made one save after the next, diving to his left, going to his right, parrying the ball to safety as he was a brick wall time and time again.
There was someone missing in the midfield for Beitar (Keltjens anyone?) and although Gadi Kinda did an admirable job at threatening the Beer Sheva goal, he still lacks the vision to find the open man and also in organizing the attack. Levi Garcia was lethal down the flanks as he burned by Sean Goldberg and company but couldn’t finish while the same could be said about Freddy Plumain.
“You can’t build a team in just one transfer window. It has to be done over time going step by step,” Levy declared. There’s no doubt that this statement is 100% correct. It will take time and effort as the squad continues to mature step by step. One could say that if Beitar were going to be serious contenders this season, they should have been able to find a way to win the contest.
However, that being said, it’s only Matchday 1 of 36 with an almost brand new staff and squad taking to the pitch. The club will know as the season continues if they are true contenders or pretenders and how they’ve matured as a unit.
When the same opportunity presents itself later on in the campaign will they know how to win? “We built a base for a serious team and one that will be able to bring championships down the road for Beitar Jerusalem,” explained Levy. When the same situation presents itself later in the season, that will be the litmus test to see if the team in fact is heading in the right direction.
One of the most important players in helping the team reach its potential is veteran midfielder Dan Einbinder who has seen it all in Israeli football. The 30-year old won a pair of championships with Maccabi Tel Aviv while also being a part of the 2014/15 Treble side. He also picked up another league title with Hapoel Beer Sheva along with a State Cup as a rookie with Beitar in 2008/09.
This version of Beitar is a new team that also includes youngsters Shay Konstantin and Max Grechkin, Einbinder will be relied upon for fatherly guidance, “I think that’s something that I bring to the table. I’ve always showed my leadership on and off the pitch and this is what I want to do here now with the squad and continue on in that manner in the future. This was the first time for some players who were playing at a packed Teddy Stadium and my role is to help them adjust to that as well.”
There’s no question that the potential is there for Beitar to have a big, big year. They are headed in the right direction, with the right man at the helm in Roni Levy. With a couple more personnel moves they will be even better.
Now, should I dare say that they will challenge for the championship?
Better yet, let’s take it step by step. Beitar Jerusalem Under Construction.
Ofir Kriaf was fantastic as a central defender. He made timely tackles, cleared the balls he needed to and just did about everything asked of him. Will he continue in that role now that Tal Ben Haim is fit and newcomer Diogo Verdasca has arrived?
The FanZone outside of the Stadium was fun. Ice cream and hot dog vendors were there as were face painters for the kids along with Israeli music legend Yehuda Keisar who also played a goose bump rendering version of Hatikva that 20K fans joined in to sing with him.
Beer Sheva still has their 2nd leg Europa League Playoff Round contest on Thursday night where they will try and overturn a 3:0 loss in Rotterdam against Feyenoord, an almost impossible task. The Dutch club’s league match was pushed off in order for them to be completely concentrated on the task at hand. I asked Miguel Vitor about the fact that while Beer Sheva had a match their opponent didn’t, “We didn’t have a game before the first leg while Feyenoord did. In my opinion teams have to be ready to play two games in a week.”