Facing the bottom of the table side Alashkert in Yerevan knowing that the result will not influence the table standings, Maccabi’s interim coach, Barak Itzhaki, gave a much needed rest to the players who feature on a regular basis and made several changes to his starting line-up.
Even though the cold weather conditions at the Armenian capital resembled those in Jerusalem earlier this week, Itzhaki, sent out 10 different players than those who started against Beitar Jerusalem on Sunday.
Daniel Tenenbaum who recovered from a back injury that kept him out so far this season, was handed his first start, giving the ever present Daniel Peretz a rest with Or Yitzhak named on the bench as the second choice keeper. Idan Nachmias, the only player who started against Beitar, kept his place at the heart of defence as he was partnered by Matan Baltaxa. Maor Kandil, who also recovered from a long term injury that sidelined him so far, returned to the right side of defence after a long absence with Enric Saborit completing the back-four on the left.
Eden Shamir and Avi Rikan were also given a chance in midfield with young Ido Shahar completing the midfield trio. Matan Hozez, who scored against Alashkert when Maccabi beat the Armenians 4-1 at Bloomfield, started on one wing with Eylon Almog on the opposite flank responsible for supplying the ammunition for Osama Khalaila who led the line upfront.
Or Itzhak, Dan Glazer, Stipe Perica, Dan Biton, Tal Ben Chaim, Gabi Kanichowsky, Brandley Kuwas, Sheran Yeini, Eyal Golasa, Ofir Davidzada Andre Geraldes and Luis Hernandez were all named as the substitutes for the match.
With the temperatures dropping close to zero, Maccabi began the match at the Republican stadium in Yerevan and enjoyed most of the possession right from the start.
Six minutes after kickoff an Idan Nachmias diagonal ball found Enric Saborit whose first touch square ball into the path of Osama Khalaila was cleared before the striker could get a touch. In the 10th minute Alashkert’s winger James almost draw first blood as he skipped past a Maor Kandil challenge to break into the Maccabi area before firing his shot across the face of Daniel Tenenbaum’s goal from close range.
A minute later, Eylon Almog should have put Maccabi in front as he raced through the middle beating two defenders in the process, but with only the keeper to beat was denied by a spectacular Ognjen Cancarevic save.
In the 20th minute, Maccabi’s pressure on Alashkert’s defence won them the ball deep inside the hosts’ side and with a numerical advantage. But as Khalaila unselfishly fed Matan Hozez, the winger had his shot saved by the keeper for a corner.
Marko Milinkovic had the ball in he back of Tenebaum’s goal in the 35th minute but the goal was disallowed for offside. Two minutes later another Maccabi counter attack almost resulted with a goal but once again Hozez had his effort blocked. In the 40th minute Ido Shahar found himself in a glorious position to score but the diminutive midfielders shot from the center of the area was blocked by an Alashkert defender.
With no goals before the interval, the halftime whistle of Hungarian referee Georg Bogar sent both teams to warm up in the dressing rooms.
Barak Itzhaki made his first change as Ofir Davidzada replaced Emric Saborit at the restart. In the 63rd minute Itzhaki made a triple substitution as Dan Biton, Gabi Kanichowsky and Brandley Kuwas came in for Shahar, Hozez and Rikan who handed the captain’s armband to Tenenbaum.
Andre Gerales replaced Maor Kandil in the 70th minute ad Itzhaki made his fifth and final change. Kuwas won a free kick on the edge of the Alaskhert penalty area on 74 and Biton curled the free kick which was making its way into the top corner only for Cancarevic to tip the ball out for a corner.
In the 77th minute however, Alashkert took the lead as Milinkovic curled a free kick into the area before Dejan Boljevic rose high at the far post and headed home past Tenenbaum.
In the 89th minute Maccabi were back on level terms as a corner was fumbled by the keeper into the path of Eylon Almog who sent a half volley that went in off the crossbar to make it 1-1.
Despite three minutes of added time and pressure to try and snatch a late winner, Maccabi couldn’t find the opening as the referee’s final whistle ended the match in a tie.
The draw meant Maccabi ended the group with 11 points from six matches having won 3 drawn 2 and lost 1 to LASK that finished top with 16 after beating HJK 3-0.