Maccabi returned to Bloomfield stadium for the ONE ZERO League MD21 early kickoff match against Bnei Sakhnin. After the Home Front Command lifted its’ restrictions, Bloomfield could finally be full to its’ capacity for the first time since October 7th.

Five days after the 2-0 defeat at Sammy Ofer which saw his side concede their second defeat of the season and lose pole position for the first time this season, Maccabi will be aiming to return to winning ways. Robbie Keane and his charges have 45 points from 20 matches, trailing Haifa in the table on goal difference having scored 40 and conceded 17. Maccabi will be seeking their 15th league win of the season against Bnei Sakhnin that have 24 points and are ranked 7th in the table. Since the 3-2 defeat to Maccabi at Doja on December 12th, Slobodan Drapjic’s side were beaten only twice in the league by Haifa and Hapoel Be’ersheva.

Keane made several changes from Monday’s team as he welcomed back into the side Enric Saborit who partnered Raz Shlomo at the heart of defense. While Shlomo was making his home debut, Ofir Davidzada also stepped back into the left back role. Avishai Cohen completing the four-man defense in front of goalkeeper Roi Mishpati. Joris van Overeem, Gabi Kanichowsky and Dor Peretz all kept their places as Maccabi’s midfield trio. Felicio Milson returned after a month-long absence with his country at the African Cup of Nations. The 24-year-old Angolan winger returned to Maccabi’s left wing, with Dor Turgeman taking up the position on the opposite right flank. Eran Zahavi lead the team out wearing the captain’s armband as the veteran captain wanted to end his five-goal barren run since scoring a brace in the Tel Aviv derby.

On the bench Keane named Daniel Tenenbaum, Roy Revivo, Yonatan Cohen, Yonas Malede, Matan Baltaxa, Ido Shahar, Kiko Bondoso, Eden Kartzev and Osher Davida.

First Half

The 20,822 fans who arrived at Bloomfield stadium for the early kick off match, enjoyed the winter sun which was more of an encouragement for Maccabi to start the match on the front foot.

Felicio Milson on one flank and Dor Turgeman on the opposite wing gave Robbie Keane’s side the width they needed as the Angolan winger tormented Sakhnin’s right side of defense early on. In the sixth minute Avishai Cohen and Turgeman combined well before the youngster cut inside and fired a left foot shot that curled wide of the post. Sakhnin’s captain Hasan Hilu picked an early booking for stopping a Turgeman counter-attack just past the halfway line. In the 16th minute a Milson and Gabi Kanichowsky combination led to the former cut inside but blocked for a corner. Two minutes later Milson was fouled just outside the area and near the touchline but from the visitors’ counter-attack Sakhnin took the lead through Mohamad Shaker.

In the 32nd minute, Dor Peretz picked the ball near the corner of the area and charged forward before being fouled by Constantinos Soteriou who was consequently booked. Eran Zahavi stepped up and blasted the free kick catching goalkeeper Mahamamed Abu Nil stranded on his goal-line but rattled the crossbar. Peretz tried heading the rebound towards the open goal, but the ball rolled out wide for a goal kick. On the stroke of halftime Sakhnin’s coach Slobodan Drapjic was sent off by referee Gal Leibovic for dissent.

Second half

Keane made two changes after the interval as Roy Revivo and Kiko Bondoso replaced Ofir Davidzada and Joris van Overeem at the restart.

In the 48th minute Mishpati needed two attempts to collect a ball which headed back towards him giving Maccabi’s fans at Bloomfield more than a bit of a scare. Three minutes later Sakhnin had the ball in the back of the net for the second time as Dor Hugi blasted in a shot that fell into his path following a Mishpati save. But the goal was disallowed for offside keeping Maccabi’s deficit minimal. Keane reacted as he made two more changes in the 58th minute with Ido Shahar and Osher Davida replacing both Peretz and Turgeman. The impact was almost instant as Maccabi came close to level the score after Davida charged down the left. His cut back picked Bondoso in the center of the area before the Portuguese midfielder’s shot was blocked by Sakhnin defense which also kept out Shahar’s attempt to fire in the rebound. Right on the hour mark Maccabi came close once again and from almost the same position, this time Kanichowsky sending his shot over the crossbar.

In the 73rd minute Milson cut into the box from the left, sent the ball to  Bondoso before Zahavi’s weak shot was collected at ease by Abu Nil. Keane made his fifth and final substitution on 76 as Yonas Malede was handed his home debut replacing Cohen for the closing stages.

A Kanichowsky drive in the 81st minute proved too powerful for Abu Nil to hold onto but none of Maccabi’s players could react and tuck the rebound home. Maccabi continued to dominate and place Sakhnin’s defense under a siege but the visitors continued to hang on as the clock kept on ticking.

In the 88th minute Maccabi were finally rewarded for the efforts as Kanichowsky once again blasted a shot which came off Abu Nil’s chest. Malede pounced on the rebound and slotted home the equalizer to level the score with his debut Maccabi goal. The fourth official indicated seven minutes of added time before Shahar blasted a shot high over the crossbar. The full time whistle however confirmed Maccabi will have to seek the three points elsewhere with their next match away to Maccabi Netanya on February 19th.