Monday, February 26, 2007

Betar Jerusalem 0, Bnei Yehuda 0

The Jerusalem Post
26 February 2007
Page 12

Another no score draw at Teddy

Betar Jerusalem was held to a 0-0 draw in a home Premier League match for the fifth time this season on Sunday night when it failed to dent the goal of Bnei Yehuda at Teddy Stadium. Just like two weeks ago, when the league leader drew 0-0 with Maccabi Petah Tikva, Betar's passionate fans booed the players off the pitch, expecting more from the team bankrolled by billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak.
When Maccabi Tel Aviv held Betar to a goalless draw at Teddy in December, the visiting coach Eli Cohen was accused of employing bunker-style tactics. Two months later, it has become clear that the problem lies with home coach Yossi Mizrahi, who has found it difficult to inspire his team to do what they need to do most - score goals.
Betar remains in first place in the standings and Bnei Yehuda ninth. With the lack of a strong challenger, Betar is the favorite to take the league title in May, but the team's lack of exciting soccer and a dearth of goals at home has frustrated the home supporters. On Monday, Maccabi Haifa visits Hapoel Kfar Saba and Maccabi Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv to wrap up Matchday 22 and the second round of the Premier League.
On Sunday, the game got underway in blustery and slightly foggy conditions with yellow ticker tape the home fans had thrown into the air during the national anthem swirling around Bnei Yehuda 'keeper Vincent Enyeama's goal.
Michael Zandberg had the first shot on goal for the hosts, a speculative effort from outside the area in the third minute which was easily pushed away for a corner by Enyeama. Zandberg's midfield partner, Gal Alberman, then had an easy chance to take the lead from the corner but headed wide.
Betar started the game the liveliest, pushing towards goal at every opportunity, while the visitors were finding it hard to carve out even a single scoring chance. It was even for most of the first half with former Bnei Yehuda left back Roni Gafni, who moved to team from the capital last summer, regularly at fault with his crosses from the left wing failing to find their target.
After 17 minutes, referee Asaf Binan turned down a certain penalty call for the home side when Bnei Yehuda right back Imoro Lokman clearly blocked a Zandberg cross with his hand in the area.
With just over half an hour gone, the visitors had their best chance to take the lead. Ex-Betar forward Lior Asulin, who had a point to prove after being sent away from the Jerusalem club last summer, surged through the Betar defense with only goalkeeper Itzik Korenfein to beat, but watched his soft shot trickle past the right post.
Ten minutes later, Kleber Schwenk should have made it 1-0 for the hosts when Toto Tamuz headed the ball down for him a meter in front of the goal. However, the hapless Brazilian striker, who has yet to score in the league since his move in January, clattered his shot against the post.
The fruitless Betar team left the field at halftime to boos from disgruntled home supporters.
The second half started in a similarly sloppy style as neither team was able to hold on to the ball or string more than a few passes together.
Betar had its second penalty appeal turned down on 63 minutes when Salem Abu Siam appeared to touch the ball with his hand in the area but replays showed the referee made a good decision this time.
As time ticked away, Betar began controlling the game, creating more and more opportunities. However, it felt like luck was against the home team when Assi Domb appeared to foul Zandberg in the area after 65 minutes, but no penalty was called despite the protests of the Betar players.
A couple of minutes later, substitute Amit Ben-Shushan was only centimeters away from connecting with a Tamuz cross which zipped across the goal mouth.
The introduction of Ben-Shushan, Aviram Bruchian and Tuto Roschel halfway through the second half added some verve to the home club's play, but it was not enough. For the entire last half hour, Betar produced waves of attacks but lacked the final quality cross or shot and the game ended scoreless.

The Last Word

Jerusalem Post
February 26 2007
Page 11

The Last Word: The negative effects of popular misconception
Feb. 26, 2007
Sports have a strange effect on people. Away from the stadium, sports fans may be completely normal people with regular, mature thought processes. But, put in front of an important game, once free thinking people soon become caught up in a wave of publicity and emotion which can completely cloud their better judgment.
Like in other areas of life, the media is a major influence on the views of sports fans as well as those directly involved. It's incredible to see how some people are willing to ignore the facts in front of their noses and support the viewpoint of the majority, however ridiculous it may be.
One man who has fallen foul of the negativity of popular opinion is former England soccer captain David Beckham. Six months after being ousted from the England setup by new manager Steve Mclaren, it is only now, a month before the Israel vs England Euro 2008 qualifier in Ramat Gan, that McClaren has realized how crucial Beckham can be.
While in July it seemed clear that there was no way Beckham would be amongst the England players making the trip to the Holy Land, now it looks increasingly likely he will be back in the squad in time for the big match on March 24.
Since he burst onto the scene in 1996 with a wonder goal for Manchester United against Wimbledon from the halfway line, Beckham has consistently been one of the hardest working, passionate and most impressive players on a soccer pitch. Not only has he scored great free kicks, which he has become famous for, he is a supremely skillful soccer player who inspires by his sheer presence on the field and was rightly made England captain in November 2000, a position he held for nearly six years.
But the fact that Beckham is a good looking guy who has fun with his fame, and makes a lot of money out of it, seems to have made people think it is okay to brand him a "pretty boy" who is a better model than a soccer player. His, perhaps unwise, decision to accept a lucrative offer to play for an American soccer club, the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, next year may have heightened this perception.
Now it seems everyone had made a big mistake. Beckham has been and still is one of the best players to have pulled on an England shirt. Even though he wasn't picked for Real Madrid for a few weeks after he announced his planned move to LA, last week Beckham began playing for Madrid again. His performance in the 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week was nothing short of inspiring.
This phenomenon of supporters believing the hype, or lack of it, is clearly present in Israeli soccer. At Betar Jerusalem, for example, local supporters will swear that Gal Alberman has had a rubbish season but Michael Zandberg has been great for the team. However, anyone who has watched the pair closely for the last six months would note that it is Alberman who has been most influential in the Betar midfield, generally playing a solid and intelligent game peppered with quality passing and tackling. Zandberg has been only intermittently impressive with his game full of badly timed passes and wasteful dribbles that end up in nothing.
The situation can also be reversed. Fans have such hope that a player will play well that they assume he is good, even if his performances prove otherwise.
Look at Frenchman Jerome Leroy last season. He may have played a few good matches but he was generally poor. However, the Betar fans were looking for a hero and held him up as one of the best players to ever walk on to the Teddy Stadium pitch.
There's little that can be done to reverse this problem. It's a fact of life. But sports fans should take note and do their best to think with their minds and not their emotions.