Winner League - 20/10/2013
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Ironi Ramat Hasharon
Ramat Gan Stadium ATTENDANCE: 16,348 REFEREE: Eitan Shmouelevich
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Gal Alberman (C)
Ironi Ramat Hasharon
Kobi Musa (C)
Hassan Saif Kent
Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Ironi Ramat Hasharon 1-0 with a goal from second-half substitute Eran Zahavi on his first touch of the game
In matchweek six of the Israeli Premier League, almost six months to the day of playing their championship match of the 2012/13 season, Maccabi Tel Aviv tonight revisited that special moment by hosting the same Ironi Ramat Hasharon team at the same Ramat Gan National Stadium venue, due to the winter re-seeding of Bloomfield Stadium.
The first half opened with Maccabi on the attack and just past the quarter hour mark midfielder Gal Alberman's strike from outside the area was parried by Ramat Hasharon keeper Ittimar Nitzan into the path of striker Tal Ben Haim, who shot wide. Ben Haim had two more first half opportunities, one just short of the half hour mark from the edge of the area and the second nine minutes later, when he narrowly missed netting a cross from fellow striker Gael Magulies. But at the whistle closing the half the match remained goalless.
The second half started with a fortuitous substitution, with midfielder Eran Zahavi replacing defender Yoav Ziv. Hardly two minutes on the pitch, he received a pass on the right from Ben Haim advancing down the middle and with Nitzan rushing out to stop him, Zahavi neatly chipped the ball over the keeper's head into the net to put Maccab 1-0 in front. Five minutes later, Ramat Hasharon made their best attempt to get back into the match but Bosnian striker Emir Hadzic headed wide past the goalmouth of Maccabi keeper Juan Pablo. Maccabi goalscorer Zahavi made a further attempt to score with an accurate shot from 25 metres out but Nitzan just managed to get a hand to it and tip it over the bar. Further chances in the second half went begging and the match ended with all the points going to Maccabi.
Maccabi Tel Aviv's next challenge will be on Thursday night, when they play their third round Europa League group stage match at Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt. Next Monday night at 9pm, Maccabi will host surprise top flight challengers Bnei Sakhnin in matchweek seven of the Israeli Premier League.
At the end of the match, Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach Paulo Sousa had this to say: "This match meant a lot more to me than just the three points. It was a difficult a match, just as I had anticipated, with only two days of training with a full squad prior to the game. It was a different atmosphere at a different venue and I would like once again to thank our fans who stood behind us even with that different atmosphere. We created a number of chances that with a little more composure could have won us the match and that's why I'm happy with the performance because at the end of the day that's our goal, to win our matches despite the difficulties".
As for the changes he made at half time, Sousa had this to say: "Our tactics are to win every match and tonight the players brought a dynamic into the match by the way they played and read the game". Sousa was also asked about the team's upcoming Europa League match against Eintracht Frankfurt: "I'm a man of faith, always positive and I always believe in my players, but at the same time I'm realistic. What the players have done is what I've been asking for since my first day here, to be ambitious, dominant, we want to display Israeli football at its very best and that's what we'll try to do in Frankfurt".
The match's lone goalscorer, midfielder Eran Zahavi, had this to say at the end of the match: "I don't agree with what they're saying, that 'Maccabi can't function without Zahavi'. We're a team, a good team and just because we were struggling a bit in the first half means nothing. We were creating chances in the first half too and the fact that we didn't score, well, that's another matter. At the end of the day I'm happy I came in, managed to score and helped the team to win".