Beitar Feels the Heat Ahead of Dinamo Bucharest Clash

Yaniv Ben Hakoun
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Yaniv Ben Hakoun

Osvaldo Ardiles may have told his players he was satisfied with their performance in Saturday's Toto Cup defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv, but the season curtain-raiser was not the kind of premiere the big-spending club had expected.

The Argentine may be trying to boost his players' confidence ahead of Thursday's UEFA Cup second-qualifying-round first leg against Dinamo Bucharest, but there are voices warning that another showing like that will put a premature end to Beitar's European season.

"There is a lot of pressure on us ahead of Thursday's match," said one Beitar player. "We have a lot to loose. A lot of money has been spent on this team over the summer and a lot of eyes are focused on us. Everyone thought we would tear Hapoel apart, but now people are doubting our ability.

"That isn't helpful fo us, but that's how it is. If we're good, everyone will sing our praises, but if we're bad, they're going to cut us to pieces."

Confidence blow

"Saturday's game could deal a blow to our confidence ahead of Dinamo," said another player. "We haven't played enough training matches and that is a big problem for the UEFA Cup match. We don't have time to improve, but if individual players are at their best, we will make it past Bucharest.

Ardiles took advantage of yesterday's final training session before the team travels to Bucharest, to try and get his message over. But that message was not the message of attacking football which marked his arrival at the club earlier this summer. Now he appears to prefer to play a tactical game until his team is in full match shape.

That has brought criticism from within the Beitar camp. "It's true that we were short up front against Hapoel because Barak Itzhaki is injured and Joeano Pinto was suspended. But Ardiles could have played with Toto Tamuz and Amit ben Shoshan," a senior Beitar player said.

Beitar appears to be pinning its hopes on Pinto's return, and another new signing, Chilean Milovan Mirosevic, is already under fire. "Milovan looks sluggish and out of focus," said a club official. "We have patience, but I'm afraid we might have made a very expensive mistake."

Midfielder Aviram Bruchian said he wasn't surprised by the way the team looked against Hapoel. "I knew it would take us time to gel. But I am a little disappointed because with a squad like ours I thought things would happen a lot quicker."

Time to gel

Bruchian however remains optimistic about Beitar's chances against Dinamo. "Obviously we would have preferred it if the match were not so early in the season. We are a new squad and with a little time, we will gain in confidence, but I believe that everything will work out," he said.

Barak Itzhaki, who watched Saturday's game against Hapoel from the stands after straining a muscle, echoed Bruchian when he said that Beitar would click within a match or two. He added, however, that the team did not have time to wait: "The match against Dinamo is do-or-die and the players will have to transcend themselves."

"We still haven't gelled together," Beitar chairman Vladimir Shklar said of his expensively assembled side.

"We looked good in the first half against Hapoel, but we faded away after the interval. I'm sure though that with Fabrice Fernandes and Jeano Pinto back in the team, we will look a lot better. The team has enormous potential; everyone can see that and I'm sure everything will come together."

The question is whether Beitar will put the puzzle together in time for Thursday's clash with Dinamo.

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