Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived at the Kopavogsvollur stadium in Reykjavik, Iceland for the Conference League MD5 match away to Breidablik. In addition to switching venues due to the frozen playing surface conditions, kickoff time was also switched to 13:00 local time thus avoiding temperatures from dropping even further below zero. Five days after beating Zorya Luhansk in Serbia, Maccabi have 9 points from four matches and are ranked second in Group B, one adrift of leaders Gent that play the Ukrainians later today before facing Maccabi on the final Match Day.
Maccabi’s Head Coach, Robbie Keane, made no changes from the side that beat the Zorya twice in Poland and Serbia as goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera kept his place in goal. Enric Saborit and Derrick Luckassen were named as the two central defenders in front of the Panamanian custodian. Roy Revivo on the left and Avishai Cohen on the right completing Maccabi’s defensive line. Joris van Overeem in the anchorman role supported by Dor Peretz and Gabi Kanichowsky were Keane’s three-man midfield engine room. Felicio Milson on one flank and Dan Biton on the other supplied the width to the side with the task of feeding Eran Zahavi.
The 36-year-old leading the team out with the captain’s armband will aim to continue scoring just as he did against Zorya and add to his 15 goals this season. On the bench Keane named goalkeeper Daniel Tenenbaum as well as Dor Turgeman, Yonatan Cohen, Sheran Yeini, Eyal Golasa, Ofir Davidzada, Sayid Abu Farchi, Ido Shahar, Nir Bitton, Kiko Bondoso, Osher Davida and Yvann Macon.
Playing on the artificial surface they are used to, Breidablik took the initiative putting pressure on Maccabi’s defense right from the start. Three minutes later though Maccabi launched their first attack as Avishai Cohen broke from the right and tried slipping the ball into the path of Dor Peretz before a defender cleared it out for a corner. Kristinn Steindorsson almost put the hosts in front after David Invargsson left him in a good position to score in the 8th minute but his miscued close-range effort sailed wide and over. Maccabi continued to look lively down the right with Cohen causing Breidablik’s defense all sorts of problems. Cohen’s cross in the 15th minute found Felicio Milson whose effort was blocked for a corner which was cleared by the hosts’ defense.
Orlando Mosquerra was called into action in the 19th minute as the Panamanian keeper was at full stretch to push away a dangerous corner. Maccabi’s best chance came five minutes later as Roy Revivo slid the ball to Gabi Kanichowsky who charged into the area before his attempt of a square ball was cleared from the goalmouth.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 36th minute as Dan Biton picked a loose ball near the corner of the area before cutting inside and unleashing a deadly left foot strike. With the sun directly in his face, Breidablik’s goalkeeper, Anton Einarsson, was caught off guard as Biton’s shot rocketed past him to put Maccabi in-front. The 28-year-old midfielder who scored his 7th goal in all competitions this season, walked over the bench and picked up an Israel flag for which he got booked by Bosnian referee Luka Bilbija. Inside injury time, Maccabi’s claims for a penalty were waived by Bilbija after Milson was clearly brought down inside the area.
With no changes to either side at the interval both teams emerged for the second half as the sun began to set and temperatures drop.
Nine minutes after the restart, Enric Saborit, sent Eran Zahavi into the area before the Maccabi captain on the day left the ball for Dor Peretz. But a Breidablik defender slid-in to clear for a corner before Peretz could manage a shot on target. Biton took the resulting corner and found Saborit who headed it into the path of Peretz who tucked the ball home from close range. But Maccabi’s celebrations were short-lived as VAR intervened and ruled the goal out for an alleged handball. A minute after the hour mark the hosts were back on level terms as a Gisli Eyjolfsson picked the ball inside Maccabi’s area, took it around Mosquerra and side-footed into the open goal.
Kanichowsky was booked in the 66th for a professional foul on Anton Logi Luoviksson before Robbie Keane made his first change, introducing Dor Turgeman for Biton two minutes later. Breidablik’s Jason Dadi Svanthorsson blasted a shot from the edge of the area over Mosquerra’s crossbar on 73.
Derrick Luckassen was shown the yellow card in the 78th minute for a foul on Svanthorsson, a booking which would rule him out of the next match against Gent.
In the 82nd minute Eran Zahavi restored Maccabi’s lead as Kanichowsky chested the ball down to tee him up just in front of the area. Zahavi spotted the keeper off his line before blasting an unstoppable right foot shot which found the top corner.
A Maccabi counter-attack in the 85th minute almost resulted with a third goal as Saborit charged forward from deep inside his own half. The Spaniard released Kanichowsky who skipped past a tackle before squaring for Turgeman whose effort was blocked by the keeper. Sheran Yeini replaced Milson in the 88th minute as Keane introduced the veteran club captain to add more stability to the defense. Turgeman forced a save from Breidablik’s keeper in the 89th minute as Maccabi looked destined to increase their lead before the 4th official signaled four minutes of added time.
Breidablik tried desperately to clinch a late equalizer, but a last gasp Joris van Overeem tackle blocked Kristofer Kristinsson’s effort from beating Mosquerra. A minute later, Maccabi’s defense struggled to clear the danger as the ball fell to Damir Muminovic who had the goal at his mercy but shot wide. Keane replaced Zahavi with Osher Davida and seconds after his introduction Davida had the ball in the back of the net. But once again the goal was disallowed after the referee decided that Turgeman fouled an opponent whilst passing the ball to Davida. Breidablik were reduced to 10 men in the final minute as Eyjolfsson was shown the second yellow card for kicking Saborit who was on the ground. But that made no difference as the full time whistle saw Maccabi celebrate the victory and qualification to the next phase.
The three points gained and the European journey which will now continue well into the new year, made the long trip back from Iceland so much easier. Maccabi’s attention will now turn to the domestic league with a trip to Jerusalem on Sunday where they face local side Hapoel at Teddy stadium. Their next European opponents Gent, beat Zorya 4-1 and will face Maccabi in a fortnight for a match which will decide the group winner.