Last night was quite a scene to witness at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem as over 30K rabid fans packed into the recently refurbished home of Beitar Jerusalem for a first in Israel! The largest crowd for a football match outside of Ramat Gan Stadium in the country felt as if we had been transported to somewhere in Europe, and that was truly amazing! The noise level was off the charts and the fan behavior couldn’t have been better, they all get an A+!
Now onto the Good, the Bad, the Ugly & the Bottom Line from last night’s clash of giants!
After the fans, the good has to go to Beitar Jerusalem and its coach Eli Cohen. Cohen did a magnificent job getting his club ready for this match. playing with a lone striker and a defense that closed down the many waves of Hapoel Tel Aviv attacks is no easy feet, especially when the visitors have top quality strikers in Itay Schecter & Omer Damari. Ice Cream, yes, that’s Osa Guobadia’s name who did a wonderful defensive job on Hapoel Tel Aviv along with game winning goal scorer Niso Kapiloto & Shai Hadad.
But it was also Ariel Harush, the Man of the Match who made a number of spectacular saves that kept Beitar in the game during the first half. Harush showed why he is considered the future Israel National Team goalkeeper once Dudu Aoute finally hangs up his cleats on the International level. Without his fabulous play this match could have been a much different story as Beitar gave Hapoel a bit too much respect for the first 45 minutes of play.
Kudos has to go out to coach Eli Cohen who was able to make the correct substitutions at the correct times. Teteh Bangura was ineffective playing behind Yitzik Cohen and came out of the game at the half as Brazilian Bryan Jones changed the tempo of the game with offensive runs down the left side of the pitch and Beitar began to provide a bit more offense.
But the coup d’etat was the insertion of veteran David Revivo for Sintayehu Sallalich in the 82nd minute which led to the Kapiloto’s goal just 2 minutes later off a Revivo pass right in the box. Eli Cohen is under pressure from Revivo senior, Haim, is the owner’s representative was able to see some fruits from his somewhat controversial decision to bring Revivo jr. off the bench.
A few things stand out from this game. Firstly, Sintayehu Sallalich always seems to run miles and miles, but never quite finish the job. He’ll take a long run down the sideline and then shoot instead of passing to an open man. He’ll insist on going 1 on 3 instead of giving up the ball to another teammate. Sallalich will have a good opportunity but totally shank the ball. I believe we saw all of that last night yet again. Secondly was the respect that Beitar showed Hapoel in the first half. It seemed that they were afraid to attack HTA after the first few minutes and went into an ultra conservative shell. Beitar was lucky not to get burned by these tactics, but were bailed out by Ariel Harush a number of times. Lastly, Hapoel Tel Aviv looks like a team that is totally lost in which four out of six games they have not scored a goal. There is no way a team with the players that the Reds have and a top manager in Ran Ben Shimon should the results be the way they are. His choice of substitutes were questionable last night and to see Shai Abutbol rotting on the bench is not a pretty sight.
Listening to Itay Schecter speaking the day after the game on 103 FM you can hear not only the frustration in his voice but also the anger that they haven’t been able to produce and that they are being criticized by the media and the fans. Itay said that he didn’t sleep all not, but says that they are playing good football but the breaks haven’t gone there way.
The use of the game by the politicians the night before an election and the minute of silence for Rav Ovadia Yosef. That was just plain ugly. On one the Mizrachi side of the Stadium we have Jerusalem Mayoral candidate Moshe Leon & MK and huge Leon supporter Avigdor Liberman and in the owners box was Mayor Nir Barkat and MK Limor Livnat hanging out with Eli Tabib. Both candidates have been going at each other for a number of months already and to see both of them using the night before the election to get air time is just not cool. Yes, I sw Nir Barkat, shook his hand and spoke to him for a minute, but in my humble opinion there is no place to politic at an event that people paid money to be at.
The same for the minute of silence for Ovadia Yosef. Sorry Charlie this had nothing to do with football and everything to do about politics as his political party Saha supported Moshe Leon in the Jerusalem mayoral contest and to publicly hold a minute for him and have signs hanging all over the stadium is just WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!
I wrote in The Jerusalem Post a number of years ago that a moment of silence for Yitzhak Rabin had no place at a Maccabi Haifa v Beitar Jerusalem match and I still believe that to be true. The only people who should have a moment of silence at a sporting event are those directly associated with the team or the sport. NO ONE ELSE!!!
The Bottom Line:
Hapoel Tel Aviv is in deep trouble and there are rumblings at Wolfson about Ran Ben Shimon and a number of players not playing nearly to their potential. On the other side of the coin, Beitar Jerusalem is on the way up. Three points in front of 30K fans can only help a team that always is in search of a morale boost since they always seem to be in some sort of turmoil. If I am now Beitar, I go after season ticket sales hard that way they get more fannies in the stands and more money into the coffers which hopefully mean a serious run at players they need in the January transfer window.