Maccabi Tel Aviv open the 2021/22 domestic league season with a tough trip away to Bnei Sachnin. Coach Patrick van Leeuwen, returns to the Doha stadium where last season he guided Maccabi as caretaker to a Toto Cup Final victory over Sachnin. This tine round, and having guided Maccabi to the Conference League group stages, Van Leeuwen put the European exploits aside to focus on the league.

The Dutchman made two changes from the side that beat Shakhter Karagandy on Thursday at Bloomfield as Matan Baltaxa replaced Idan Nachmias as the second central defender alongside Louis Hernandez. Other than that the defence remained unchanged with Daniel Peretz in goal while Andre Geraldes and Enric Saborit completed the back-four on the left and right respectively. The midfield trio of Sheran Yeini, Dan Glazer and Avi Rikan remained unchanged for the third match in succession. Upfront, Matan Hozez replaced Eduardo Guerrero while Tal Ben Chaim and Osama Khaliala both kept their places. For the young forward this was the first outing against his boyhood club from which he joined Maccabi in the summer.

First Half

Maccabi wore the new Yellow and Blue stripy away strip for the first time, as they began the match with purpose and intention to stamp their authority right from the start. Two corners and two dangerous throw ins deep inside Sachnin’s territory put pressure on the hosts defence who struggled to clear the danger. In the 5th minute, Louis Hernandez launched one of his trademark long throws which was partly cleared towards Avi Rikan whose volley from the edge of the area struck the arm of Ari Moura. Referee Yigal Fried immediately awarded a penalty as even the intervention of VAR didn’t deny Maccabi the spot kick which was successfully converted by Enric Saborit for the first goal of the season.

In the 18th minute Raz Stain was sent into the area before being impeded by Daniel Peretz who charged off his goal-line. The referee awarded a penalty but his assistant raised his flag for offside. VAR intervened and after a long review of the incident a penalty was awarded. Beram Kayal stepped up and sent a low weak shot which saw Peretz make amends for his mistake, dive to his right and save. In the 25th minute Kayal chipped a free kick over Maccabi’s defense allowing Ihab Ghnayem to ghost into the area and head the ball only for Peretz to charge off his line and save. Two minute later however Peretz could do nothing to deny Abdallah Jaber’s shot which curled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Matan Hozez who was booked earlier on, limped off and was replaced in the 35th minute by Eduardo Guerrero.

In the 42nd minute, Kayal charged half the length of the pitch from his own penalty area towards Maccabi’s before releasing Moura whose shot was saved by Peretz.

Second Half

Within seconds of his introduction Biton had two shots on goal which were blocked by Sachnin’s defense before the balls could threaten Mahmoud Kandil in goal. Shortly after the hour mark van Leeuwen made a double as Eden Shamir and Stipe Perica were both handed their league debuts for Maccabi replacing both Yeini and Ben Chaim. Two minutes later, an Andre Geraldes cross reached Biton whose attempt of a shot fell to Perica but the Croat side footed the ball over the crossbar.

In the 74th minute Sachnin took the lead as Raz Stain was given the time and space on the edge of the area, before the diminutive forward struck a powerful right foot shot that rocketed past Peretz to make it 2-1. In the 90th minute a counter attack which began with Osama Khalaila and continued with a Perica flick to Biton, ultimately reached Khalaila whose shot from the edge of the area was blasted by Khalaila over the crossbar. The referee indicated nine minutes of added time giving Maccabi some hope of salvaging something on the night. Louis Hernandez managed to ge the ball in Kandil’s net after a header from Biton but the celebrations were shortlived as the goal was ruled out for offside and even a review of the VAR didn’t help.

Nir Lax who was introduced minutes earlier for Stain, sealed Sakhnin’s victory in injury time as he slotted a shot beyond the reach of Peretz to make it 3-1