Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted Beitar Jerusalem on Matchday 30 of the WINNER League Championship Playoffs with an opportunity to leap frog over Hapoel Beer Sheva and claim first place
Eran Zahavi proved to the football world yet again why he is the biggest winner in Israeli football today as the Captain shattered the single season goal scoring record with a brace and propelled Maccabi into first place ahead of Hapoel Beer Sheva. Micha scored the first goal of the match while Nikita Rukavytsya scored a brace for Beitar Jerusalem as the Yellow-and-Blue.
Head Coach Peter Bosz started keeper Predrag Rajikovic in goal as usual with a defensive quartet of Eli Dasa, Eitan Tibi, Carlos Garcia and Yuval Shpungin who was playing in place of the injured Omri Ben Harush in front of the young Serbian shot stopper. Wily veteran Gal Alberman along with Haris Medunjanin manned the midfield while Dor Micha, Tal Ben Chaim, Orlando Sa and Captain Eran Zahavi provided the attack up front.
It didn’t take long for Maccabi to make a mark on the match as they quickly took a 1:0 lead in the 10th minute. Alberman led a quick break as the midfielder sent a fantastic ball down the right side to a streaking Dasa. The right back found a wide open Micha who calmly beat Beitar keeper Boris Kleyman to give the Yellow-and-Blue an early lead.
However, ten minutes later Beitar was awarded a penalty after Itay Shecter was fouled in the box and Nikita Rukavytsya easily converted the spot kick to even up the score at 1:1.
With the match back to square one, Maccabi searched for the go ahead goal, but Dasa’s effort went over the Beitar goal and Zahavi’s chance went off of the bar as the frenzied match headed into the 30th minute. As the Yellow-and-Blue continued to control the flow of the match, Zahavi had another wonderful opportunity but his 31st minute header from the middle of the box went out, right over the goal.
Portuguese striker Sa also chipped in with a close range header but his effort went over a leaping Kleyman and over the bar. Zahavi with yet another grand opportunity saw his free kick just scoot by the left post as Kleyman stretched as far as he could to ensure number 7 would stay off of the scoresheet. But he couldn’t keep him off of it for much longer.
In the 43rd minute, Zahavi finally scored his 30th goal of the season tying the Israel League single season goal scoring record with Nisim Elmaliah. The Captain took an unbelievable Micha pass in the box and slammed the ball home behind a helpless Kleyman into the Beitar goal for a 2:1 lead at the break.
The second half began with the same starting XI for both sides. Maccabi’s first chance came in the 54th minute when Sa left the ball for Ben Chaim on the left side. The winger found Zahavi in the box but his header missed the mark as did the Captain’s chance in the 58th minute again from a brilliant play by the winger.
Beitar then punished Maccabi for all of those missed opportunities, when just one minute later Rukavytsya scored his second of the game from in close to draw the Yellow-and-Black even with the Yellow-and-Blue at 2:2.
Ben Chaim who moved his play up a notch in the second half had another chance when his effort from the wing was grabbed by Kleyman to keep the score as is. The 70th minute saw Head Coach Bosz make his first substitution of the match introducing Eden Ben Basat for Sa to help jump start the offense for the remaining 20 minutes.
With Maccabi looking for the winner in the final 10 minutes of the match, Dasa’s chance from Micha missed the mark, Medunjanin’s chip to Zahavi also couldn’t find the goal and Ben Basat’s header went into the waiting hands of the keeper Kleyman. As time continued to wind down Barak Itzhaki came on in favor of Ben Chaim in the 87th minute.
And then it happened. Number 7, the Captain, Eran Zahavi finds the winner out of nowheres in the 90th minute to not only break the Israel League single season goal scoring record with 31 on the campaign, but also to move the Yellow-and-Blue into first place, ahead of rival Hapoel Beer Sheva!