Beitar bests Hapoel in Jerusalem derby
The stage was set for Monday night’s highly anticipated Israel Premier League Jerusalem derby, the first of its kind since April 15, 2000, as Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Jerusalem squared off for city supremacy once again at Teddy Stadium.
Back in 2000 only 5,000 fans filed into the partially completed facility and witnessed a 1-1 draw, while this time around over 20,000 supporters of both squads filled the stadium bearing their colors – yellow-and-black on one side and red-and-black on the other – to watch a dominating 3-0 win by Beitar Jerusalem.
It was a victory that Beitar so desperately needed for the team and for its fans.
For Hapoel Jerusalem, which had spent many years in the lower leagues, the loss was just growing pains and yet another step by the club’s visionary Uri Sheradsky, who decided to create a fan-based club, Hapoel Katamon, back in 2009 to bring Hapoel Jerusalem back to its rightful home.
The newly formed franchise would go head-to-head with Hapoel Jerusalem and begin climbing its way up the Israeli soccer ladder from Liga Gimel to Liga Bet to Liga Aleph and then from Liga Leumit to finally Ligat Ha’Al, the Premier League, on what was a long journey which saw so many ups and downs.
Hapoel Jerusalem went in the other direction and continued to drop divisions until it disappeared from existence and Katamon reclaimed the Hapoel Jerusalem moniker just a little over one year ago.
Beitar Jerusalem has had its own colorful two decades, with the team being bought and sold numerous times, moving from hand to hand of businessmen. Meir Fenigal to Arkady Gaydamak, almost to Guma Aguiar and back to Gaydamak, then to Eli Tabib and on to Moshe Hogeg, who has now handed the team over to a trustee while searching for a new owner. Never a dull moment for six-time Israeli league champion.
Coming into Monday’s derby, both coaches and players all said the correct things. Ziv Arie, the Reds’ bench boss, stated that his side would be the underdog in every game this season due to the fact that it is a newly promoted squad. However, despite that challenge he is proud and so is the club’s young players, who will play with fantastic energy and belief.
Over at Beitar, Dutch coach Erwin Koeman stated that his team was ready to go and the players couldn’t wait to face their city rivals.
Of course, this derby didn’t feature the same cast of characters that the one back in 2000 did, but some are certainly familiar faces to both sets of supporters as well as the casual fans.
From the two goal scorers in the 1-1 Derby over 21 years ago, Alon Mizrachi for Beitar and Shay Aharon for Hapoel, to yellow-and-black ’keeper Itzik Korenfine to red-and-black defender Dudu Dahan, these are still some of the most well-known people in Israeli soccer today.
Mizrachi, the all-time leading Israeli league scorer who is today a television analyst, had his all-time Israel goal record broken by Eran Zahavi just last week and continued to claim that he is still the best and greatest marksman produced by the country.
Aharon is the general manager of Hapoel and the architect of the team that was promoted to the top league.
Korenfine was the Beitar chairman for a number of years and now works for the City of Jerusalem, while also serving as a TV analyst recently for the National Team broadcasts.
Dahan is one of the biggest player agents today since hanging up his cleats and has helped many a Sabra find a quality team to play for both in Israel and abroad.
Beitar tried to demonstrate its dominance early on as Niv Zrihen unleashed a low liner from inside the box, but his attempt went just wide of the target while his second chance also missed the goal as the game remained goalless at the quarter-hour mark.
The yellow-and-black’s continuous pressure finally paid off when Tamir Adi broke the deadlock with a terrific strike from in close, sending the over 15,000 Beitar faithful into a frenzy.
For the balance of the half, play stayed primarily in the midfield as the “visitors” took a 1-0 lead into the halftime break.
Ziv Arie freshened up the Hapoel attack to begin the second half with a pair of substitutes, but it was Koeman’s squad that doubled its advantage when Richmond Boakye nodded the ball from right in front of the goal for a 2-0 lead in the 55th minute.
Beitar kept pouring on the offense and it added another marker as David Huga stabbed home a loose ball in the 66th minute as the Hapoel fans began to file out of the stadium as the clock hit 10 o’clock.
As the two managers continued to empty their benches with substitutes galore, Beitar fans continued to celebrate into the night as their team earned the three points and, as important, the right to call Jerusalem their city until the sides meet again.
As Hogeg tweeted following the game: “Past, Present and Future. Jerusalem will always be yellow.”