Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived at the TSC Arena in Serbia’s Backa Topola, for the rescheduled Conference League MD3 home match against Zorya Luhansk. A fortnight after beating the Ukrainian side 3-1 in Poland, Maccabi have 6 points from three matches and are currently second in Group B, four adrift of leaders Gent.
Maccabi’s Head Coach, Robbie Keane, made no changes from the side that beat the Zorya in Lublin as goalkeeper Orlando Mosquera kept his place in goal. Enric Saborit and Derrick Luckassen lined-up as the two central defenders in-front of the Panamanian custodian with Avishai Cohen and Roy Revivo completing Maccabi’s back-four on the right and left ,respectively. 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 Maccabi’s formation assigned to the task of supplying ammunition for Eran Zahavi. The veteran marksman who led the team out wearing the captain’s armband will aim to add to his tally of 14 goals for Maccabi in all competitions this season. On the bench, Keane named both Roi Mishpati and Daniel Tenenbaum as well as Dor Turgeman, Yonatan Cohen, Sheran Yeini, Eyal Golasa, Ofir Davidzada, Ido Shahar, Nir Bitton, Kiko Bondoso, Osher Davida and Yvann Macon.
The early stages of the match at the TSC Arena saw Maccabi enjoy most of the possession but struggle to create a serious chance on Zorya’s goal. The visitors tried launching counter attacks but couldn’t get past Maccabi’s defensive line which was marshalled by Derrick Luckassen and Enric Saborit.
Eran Zahavi came close on 15 as he flashed a shot across the face of goal before heading wide two minutes later. Dan Biton tried curling a left foot shot in the 19th minute, but Zorya’s keeper, Mykyta Turbaievskyi, collected with ease. Dor Peretz, who scored a brace when both sides met at Lublin, blasted a right-foot-volley from the edge of the area on 21 that was blocked by a defender for a corner. Maccabi increased the pressure while Zorya struggled to break out of their half until a minute after the half-hour-mark saw, Petar Micin, charge forward. But the Serbian midfielder’s effort was equaled by Orlando Mosquera.
Gabi Kanichowsky thought he managed to open the score on 37 as he was sent clear through by a perfect Roy Revivo through ball. Kanichowsky, fired his shot into the bottom far corner but his celebrations were short-lived as the referee assistant raised his flag for offside. Even a VAR review didn’t reverse the decision as the goal didn’t count to keep the score goalless. When it seemed as though no goals will be scored before the interval, one minute inside injury time the deadlock was finally broken. Kanichowsky picked Eran Zahavi on the edge of the area before the 36 year-old marksman turned and sent an unstoppable accurate shot which went in off the crossbar to put Maccabi Infront.
Maccabi began the second half exactly where they left off. Less than a minute after the restart, Dor Peretz, reacted first to a Biton ball that came off a defender. Turbaievskyi, charged off his line, but Peretz beat him to it and with the slightest of touches, sent it beyond the keeper’s reach to double the lead.
Right on the hour mark, Maccabi increased their lead even further with Kanichowsky playing a key role once again. The diminutive midfielder broke into the area and sent a perfect cut-back into the path of Peretz who side-footed Maccabi’s third goal, his second on the night and 10th of the season.
Robbie Keane made a double substitution in the 65th minute as Nir Bitton replaced Derrick Luckassen while Dor Tugeman came on for Kanichowsky. Orlando Mosquera made his first serious save as he stretched himself to push out Micin’s shot from the edge of the area on 68.
The visitors cut the deficit in the 71st minute as Zorya exploited a lapse of concentration in Maccabi’s defense allowing former forward Guerrero to toe poke the ball past Mosquera and make it 3-1. Keane made another double change in the 77th minute as Milson and Biton bowed out and were replaced by Yonatan Cohen and Eyal Golasa for the final 13 minutes.
Ofir Davidzada replaced Zahavi on 84 but four minutes Zorya put Maccabi under pressure as substitute Ihor Horbach successfully converted Denys Antiukh’s cut-back to make it 3-2 and set a dramatic finale. Zorya tried desperately to score a late equalizer but Maccabi managed to hang on and protect the narrow lead which secured three valuable points and the victory.
Maccabi will travel to Iceland on Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s MD5 match away to Breidablik before returning to the TSC Arena next month for the final group match against Gent on December 14th.