Goals by new signings Barak Badash and Remi Mareval in their maiden starting appearances handed Maccabi Tel Aviv a 0-2 win over Maccabi Petach Tikva, the team's 18th league victory this season
Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Maccabi Petach Tikva 0-2 at the Moshava Stadium this evening courtesy of goals by new signings striker Barak Badash and defender Remi Mareval in their maiden starting appearances for the club. Much like the home fixture in November, Maccabi Tel Aviv jumped to a two-goal advantage but this time were careful to keep a clean sheet to record their fifth consecutive league victory.
With Maccabi Tel Aviv's 28 shots on goal, 10 of them on target, the outcome of the match was never really in any doubt. The first half saw the ball move largely down the right flank of Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Tal Ben Haim, one of the team's outstanding performers on the night. Less than ten minutes into the match Ben Haim had already outmanoeuvered his cover Shmulik Malul and served up a luscious ball for Barak Itzhaki, but the veteran striker shot wide. At the other end, Finnish striker Erfan Zeneli grazed keeper Juan Pablo's crossbar with a header from twelve metres out. Ben Haim continued to make light of the Petach Tikva defences but the opening goal, when it came, came from the opposite flank. Just under the half hour, a splendid Maccabi Tel Aviv attack saw strikers Itzhaki and Badash exchange passes before the former's shot ricocheted off the post and a Petach Tikva defender into the path of Maravel, who curled an exquisite right-footed shot past Petach Tikva keeper Tzahi Gigi into the far corner of the net. A minute later a second exchange of passes, this time between Badash and midfielder Eran Zehavi, cut straight through the Petach Tikva defence but Gigi was there to block Zehavi's final effort . Before the break, Ben Haim managed to hit the woodwork with one effort and narrowly miss the net with a second, but Maccabi Tel Aviv's lead remained 0-1 at half time.
Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach Paulo Sousa made no changes at half time and just two minutes after the restart the strategy paid off as Barak Badash took a pass at midfield, outran his marker and passed out wide to Eran Zahavi, waving to the midfielder to return him the ball in the area. The midfielder obliged and Badash headed over Gigi into the Petach Tikva net. With their advantage doubled, Maccabi Tel Aviv continued to move the ball about in their patient attempts to score a third goal. Midfielder Mahran Radi made several attempts from distance but none of them found their target. Badash had a chance for a second but his shot from close range off an Eran Zahavi backheel was too weak to challenge the Petach Tikva keeper. Young striker Gael Margulies, who came on for Tal Ben Haim, also tried his luck from inside the area but shot well over the net. Defender Carlos Garcia, who saw his header from an Eran Zehavi corner pass by the Petah Tikva goalmouth, will miss Maccabi Tel Aviv's away tie at Hapoel Ra'anana at the beginning of next month after receiving his fifth yellow card for an altercation with Petah Tikva striker Victor Maree.
But at the referee's final whistle Maccabi Tel Aviv had recorded their 18th league victory this season, leaving the team free to now focus their full attention on Thursday's important Europa League contest against Swiss champions FC Basel. Before the match, members of both squads will observe a moment of silence and give full applause to honour Danish coach Richard Moller Nielsen, who passed away on the 13th of this month. Nielsen coached the Danish side that surprised the entire footballing community by winning the European Cup finals in 1992. He was also the Israel national coach from 2000 to 2002.