Host Jerusalem put a slight break on runaway league leader Ra’anana and its bid to wrap up the Olim League regular season championship early by drawing 1-1 on Saturday night.
Both sides were missing a couple of players, but were nonetheless near full strength for this battle between the league’s two top-scoring teams and two of its stingiest defenses. The game started at a frantic pace, with both sides looking to stamp authority on the game. Despite the high level of soccer on show, there was only one half-chance for Jerusalem’s Mordy Weiler in the first 20 minutes, with both defenses giving nothing away.
The breakthrough came for the hosts in the 22nd minute, with a piece of brilliance from Moishe Lewis, after a pass from Weiler. With his head down, Lewis muscled toward the goal. From the edge of the area he unleashed an unstoppable shot with the outside of his boot that hit the underside of the bar in the top left corner before nestling into the back of the net.
At half time, Ra’anana’s Moshe Freedman made a tactical change, going three at the back and moving the impressive Josh Lipman into a five-man midfield, giving more strength to the league leaders and allowing Chanani Corney a little more space on the wing. Jerusalem responded by matching the fifth man in the middle to try and negate Ra’anana’s push to get back into the game.
Ra’anana got back onto level terms in the 55th minute, when the ball fell to Ben Meir by the penalty spot, and his shot made its way through the crowded area, taking a slight deflection on its way into the bottom right hand corner.
Jerusalem almost hit straight back, only to see Lollu Hibbert’s header saved off the line. A few minutes later Marom denied another goal-bound header, this time from Korman.
The end-to-end action game seemed to be heading for a draw, until Jerusalem found yet another gear in the final few minutes. Lewis broke into the area and unleashed a ferocious shot, only to be denied once more by Marom, as he somehow turned the shot round for a corner.
Jerusalem peppered the goal with a few more corners, and received a golden opportunity to win the game at the death as the ball was handled in the area, with the referee having no option but to point to the spot. Moishe Lewis stepped up, and perhaps with the pressure of a last-minute penalty, hit his spot-kick wide. A minute later, the referee brought the game to a conclusion in a result that perhaps Ra’anana will be a little more pleased with.
Jerusalem’s co-manager commented, “I thought overall we edged the game, and had we scored the last-minute penalty, I don’t think Ra’anana would have complained. But perhaps a draw was a fairer result, as on tonight’s performance, no player really deserved to be on a losing side.”
Ashdod 0, Inter Tel Aviv 3
Inter Tel Aviv broke out in the second half against host Ashdod to earn its third consecutive victory with a 3-0 triumph.
With both teams going in to this game with six points it was clearly going to be a close match-up, and it started that way right from the off. In a fairly uninspiring first half, neither side was willing to commit too many forward in order to prevent conceding the opening goal.
Inter’s greatest threat in the opening 45 minutes, Airton Manuel, was consistently targeted by the resilient Ashdod defense, while at the other end a number of individual errors gave Ashdod some half-chances, the best of which was superbly saved by the outstretched arm of Sam Friedman, who would later earn his first clean sheet of the campaign.
A determined Inter came out of the half-time break firing on all cylinders, and were rewarded with a goal just three minutes into the second half. A mazy run by marauding right-back Omri Elani saw the ball arrive at Manu Schultz, who curled the ball beyond the reach of the home 'keeper to break the deadlock.
A cagey half an hour followed, with both sides desperately looking to find the second goal of the game, yet it was the Inter defense that held firmest, assisted by hardworking performances from Ariel Benzaquen and Cedric Membrez. A cross from James Fattal fizzled across the Ashdod penalty area and Schultz was on hand again to grab his and Inter’s second of the night.
With a two-goal cushion, the away side saw out the game with ease and the final result was made to look far more comfortable, following Martin Orson’s low free kick that found its way into the bottom corner of the goal.
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