Maccabi Tel Aviv arrived at Teddy stadium for the MD6 match away to Hapoel Jerusalem which marks the return to league action after a 64-day imposed break due to the war.

With his side leading the table, an unbeaten record from the first five matches and a goal difference of 15-2, Maccabi’s Head Coach, Robbie Keane, made three changes from the side that returned from Iceland on Friday following the 2-1 victory over Breidablik.

Orlando Mosquerra, who was in goal for the three Conference League matches, made his debut league appearance. Nir Bitton partnered Enric Saborit at the heart of Maccabi’s defense right in-front of Mosquerra. Avishai Cohen kept his place on the right while Ofir Davidzada returned to the side on the left at the expense of Roy Revivo. Joris van Overeem, Dor Peretz and Gabi Kanichowsky all kept their place as Keane’s midfield engine room. Dor Turgeman, made his first league start on one wing with Felicio Milson supplying further width on the opposite flank. Upfront, Eran Zhahavi led the team out wearing the captain’s armband aiming to continue his run of good form which saw the 36-year-old veteran marksman score 4 in the league and 16 in all competitions.

On the substitutes bench Keane named Roi Mishpati, Dan Biton, Yonatan Cohen, Sheran Yeini, Eyal Golasa, Derrick Luckassen, Kiko Bondoso, Osher Davida, Kiko Bondoso and Yvann Macon.

First Half

Maccabi walked onto the pitch accompanied by Michael Idan, Inbar Mor and Daniela Mor the family of Abigail Idan (3) of Kfar Aza who was recently released from captivity.

The match began with a minute of silence in memory of those murdered on the October 7th deadly attack on the South of Israel.

The empty Teddy stadium must have contributed to the slow start which saw both teams lack accuracy even more than atmosphere as none of the keepers were troubled. In the 13th minute, Dor Turgeman tried slipping the ball to Gabi Kanichowsky but his path which carved Jerusalem’s defense open was slightly over hit. Two minutes later Milson released Eran Zahavi whose initial effort was blocked before Kanichowsky latched on the loose ball, but his effort struck the base of the post. Kanichowsky, continued to look lively as his accurate through ball in the 17th minute released Ofir Davidzada whose pinpoint cross found Zahavi. But the attempt of a volley by the veteran marksman rocketed high into the empty stand.

Right on the half hour mark Joris van Overeem stripped an opponent of the ball and fed Dor Peretz whose attempt of a long-range effort was collected by Jerusalem’s keeper Nadav Zamir.

In the 40th minute and against the run of play the hosts took the lead in controversial circumstances as Ofek Biton shrugged off Enric Saborit before charging forward and sending a low powerful drive that beat Orlando Mosquerra.

Inside injury time Turgeman rifled a left foot shot from the edge of the area, but Zamir stretched himself to push the ball out before referee Idan Leiba blew the halftime whistle.

Second Half

Maccabi’s coach Robbie Keane kept the side unchanged at the restart while his Jerusalem counterpart, Ziv Ariye, introduced Matan Hozez for Karem Zuabi. Felicio Milson began the second half match on the front foot as he dribbled into the area on 48 before cutting-back to Zahavi whose effort was blocked.

Maccabi were back on level terms on 54 as Kanichowsky sent a free kick into the area, Saborit headed the ball into the path of Zahavi who nodded in the equalizer to score his 5th league goal, 17th of the season in 399th career goal. Play was not renewed for several minutes until VAR ruled out any possibility of an offside while Keane made an immediate substitute as Dan Biton came on for van Overeem. Two minutes after his introduction Biton came close following good work by Turgeman but the midfielder’s close-range shot was directed straight at the keeper.

Keane made his second change in the 67th minute with Osher Davida replacing Milson. Davida’s impact was almost instant as the comeback was complete seven minutes later. Maccabi’s pressure on Jerusalem’s Nadav Niddam resulted with a poor attempt of a clearance that reached Kanichowsky. With one touch the diminutive midfielder fed Davida who scored his debut Maccabi goal with a low accurate shot to make it 2-1.

Zahavi could have increased Maccabi’s lead in the 80th minute after Peretz was fouled on the edge of the area but his free kick cleared the crossbar. Turgeman also came close less than a minute later as the young striker broke into the box but opted for power rather than accuracy as his shot went agonizingly wide.

Davida flashed a left foot curling shot which missed the top corner in the 89th minute before Zahavi bowed out and was replaced by Yonatan Cohen.

Leiba’s full-time whistle confirmed Maccabi’s victory as the team will now have one week of preparations ahead of next Sunday’s trip to Sakhnin and the busy two months ahead.