Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived at Bloomfield stadium knowing that anything besides a shocking upset would deny them a seventh appearance in a European group stage, as they host Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan for the Conference League Playoff return leg. The 2-1 victory in last week’s first leg in Kazakhstan has but all secured Maccabi’s passage into the inaugural Conference League group stage. Patrick van Leeuwen included his two new signings Stipe Perica and Dan Biton in his squad yet kept the duo on the bench alongside Daniel Tenenbaum who returned to the squad after recovering from a back injury and COVID.
With Daniel Peretz in goal, van Leeuwen didn’t make a single change from the side that played in Kazakhstan as Idan Nachmias partnered Louis Hernandez at the heart of defence and together with Andre Geraldes and Enric Saborit, completed the back four.
The midfield trio remained unchanged as Sheran Yeini led the team out with the captain’s armband as he lined-up alongside Dan Glazer and Avi Rikan who scored the equaliser at the Astana Arena. Upfront, Eduardo Guerrero, Tal Ben Chaim and Osama Khalaila all kept their places to lead the attack in a bid to guide Maccabi to a seventh appearance in a European group stages in 10 years.
Maccabi began the match at Bloomfield in the same way in which they played the first leg in Kazakhstan – dominating the play in an attempt to break through Shakhter’s bolstered defence. In the 12th minute they seemed to have done so as Tal Ben Chaim released Enric Saborit into the area. The Spanish left back charged forward before trying to lift the ball over Igor Shatskiy only to see it land on the roof of the net. Eduardo Guerrero had his claims for a penalty waved by referee Nikola Dabanovic after being tripped in the area by a Shakhter defender. But in the 18th minut the deadlock was finally broken as Idan Nachmias rose high to head Ben Chaim’s pinpoint corner past Shatskiy for his debut Maccabi goal.
Avi Rikan tested Shatskiy with a powerful drive from the edge of the area which the visiting keeper could only punch out on 24.
Maccabi tried attacking Shakhter from the wings as Ben Chaim’s crosses from the left caused the visitors all sorts of problems. In the 40th minute a Ben Chaim cross that was punched by Shatskiy fell to Dan Glazer whose half-volley from the edge of the area beat the keeper to double the score.
Right on the hour mark van Leeuwen made a triple change as Matan Hozez replaced Ben Chaim, Sheran Yeini bowed out and was replaced by Eden Shamir, while Osama Khalaila came off allowing Stipe Perica to make a 30-minute debut.
Two minutes later, Nachmias needed treatment and was replaced by Matan Baltaxa at the heart of defence. Dan Biton became Maccabi’s fifth substitute in the night as he made his renewed debut at Maccabi replacing Guerrero on 78.
Daniel Peretz was forced to stretch himself for the first time to push out a Yeskendir Kybyaray header following an Edin Rustemovic cross on 83. A minute later, Biton raced three quarters of the length of the pitch before teeing up Rikan whose shot went wide.