Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived at Sammy Ofer ahead of the league match against Maccabi Netanya which was relocated to Haifa due to a radius ban the club suffered for the fans misconduct.

Mladen Krstajic whose side is four points adrift of second place Hapoel Be’ersheva, made several changes from the team that suffered a late injury time defeat at Sakhnin last week. Ofir Davidzada returned to the left side of defence, with Enric Saborit partnering Josue Sa as the two central defenders. Andre Geraldes at right-back completed the back-four assigned to protect goalkeeper Daniel Peretz.

Dan Glazer led the team out with the captain’s armband from the midfield anchor-man role, before he serves a one-match touchline ban in Tuesday’s match against Maccabi Haifa. Eyal Golasa kept his place in midfield and was joined by Avi Rikan, who missed out the match in Sakhnin due to an ankle injury. Eylon Almog was handed a rare start at the top of midfield and right behind striking duo Djordje Jovanivic and Stipe Perica who both led the line.

With several players side-lined with injuries, Krstajic named young Orel Baye amongst the substitutes as the 18-year-old winger who made his senior debut in a Cup tie against Maccabi Jaffa, waited for his chance to make his senior league debut. Daniel, Tenenbaum, Matan Baltaxa, Idan Nachmias, Gabi Kanichowsky, Brandley Kuwas, Eden Shamir, Shahar Piven and Oscar Gloukh completed the subs list on the bench waiting for their chance to make an impact.

First Half

With less only 6450 fans in the stadium, those in attendance tried creating an atmosphere resembling a home match. It took Maccabi three minutes to create a chance which should have ended with a goal as Eylon Almog was sent into the area down the left flank. Almog then spotted Avi Rikan unmarked in the middle of the penalty area only for the veteran midfielder to be denied by Netanya’s keeper Dani Amos who charged off his line and saved with his feet. Zlatan Sehovic became the first player to be booked by referee Snir Levy following a rough tackle on Andre Geraldes in the eighth minute.

Patrick Tumasi tested Daniel Peretz with a right foot curled shot from outside the area in the 20th minute which was caught by Maccabi’s keeper. Three minutes after the half hour mark, play was stopped for several minutes as Dan Glazer required treatment for a head injury following a collision with Netanya’s striker Igor Zlatanovic.

When play was resumed, Tumasi teed-up Eden Kartzev on the edge of Peretz’s area before the former Maccabi midfielder blasted a shot which narrowly cleared the crossbar. Two minutes later, Peretz was at full stretch to push out Parfait Guigon’s powerful low drive. Maccabi came close at the opposite end as Rikan was handed another glorious chance to score but this time Plamen Galabov cleared with his head before the ball could reach the target. Tumasi blasted another powerful shot that caught Pertez by surprise but once again just cleared the crossbar.

Second Half

Krstajic shuffled his front line at the restart as Almog moved to the wing instead of Djordje Jovanovic while Stipe Perica dropped further back. In the 52nd minute a long accurate Peretz ball out of defence found Almog down the left flank before his cut-back reached Perica whose shot was blocked by Galabov’s hand. Levy awarded a penalty and Perica stepped up to take the spot-kick  which he calmly slotted past Amos to give Maccabi the lead.

But Netanya, that were unbeaten by Maccabi all season, restored parity within two minutes as Zlatanovic broke through the middle and fired in the equaliser. Krstajic was forced to make his first change in the 66th as Idan Nachmias replaced Josue Sa who was stretchered off while Matan Baltaxa came in for Ofir Davidzada at left back.

Krstajic made another double change on 71 as Gabi Kanichowsky came in for Rikan with Perica replaced by Brandley Kuwas. In the 79th minute Maccabi should have taken the lead after Jovanovic released Kuwas who only had Amos to beat but somehow managed to miscue his shot wide of the target. Oscar Gloukh replaced Glazer immediately after, as Krstajic made his fifth and final change in the 81st minute.

The young midfielder could have made his mark on the game three minutes later as Netanya’s defence cleared a corner which fell to his feet, but the shot went high and wide.

In the 87th minute however, Gloukh made no mistake as he scored his second senior goal to end a perfect counter attack. Kuwas charged down the right flank before releasing Geraldes whose square ball reached Gloukh in the middle of the box. Gloukh controlled the ball with one touch and volleyed home past Amos to score Maccabi’s second and make it 2-1.