Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Viktoria Plzen 0:2 in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League third round qualifying matches as they advance to the Champions League Playoffs! The Yellow-and-Blue will play in Europe this year regardless of the results in the Playoff round as they automatically qualify for the Europa League group stages should they not advance.
Eran Zahavi was the star of the show as he scored Maccabi’s first goal on a penalty in the 76th minute as Plzen captain David Limbersky picked up the foul and yellow card that led to the penalty kick. Zahavi then scored again in the 83rd minute as Yuval Shpungin assisted on the goal.
With the score now 0:2 in favor of Maccabi, instead of defending they kept on applying offense as the best defense is often offense as Maccabi looked for a third goal. However it was Juan Pablo who made the game saver, knocking the ball over the crossbar in the 90th minute to preserve the win.
Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic began the match with a lineup of Juan Pablo in goal and a back four of Omri Ben Harush, Tal Ben Haim, Eitan Tibi and Yuval Shpungin. Manning the midfield was Gal Alberman, Nosa Igiebor and Avi Rikan while a trio of attackers including Tal Ben Chaim, Barak Itzahki and Eran Zahavi played up front. Most of the first half saw sides playing the proverbial game of chess as neither team wanted to make a mistake that would cost them a valuable goal.
Viktoria Plzen had the first effort of the match as Ondrej Vanek’s powerful shot was knocked away to safety by Juan Pablo in the 5th minute. Each side earned a few corner and free kicks while Eran Zahavi and the aforementioned Vanek each picked up a yellow card.
With 45 minutes to go in the match, Maccabi came out of the lockerroom with an air of confidence as coach Jokanovic kept his players focused on the task at hand. The Yellow-and-Blue made a number of substitutions in the 2nd half bringing on Nikola Mitrovic, Gili Vermouth and Dor Micha who gave new fresh breath of life into Maccabi as they prevailed on Zahavi’s brace to head to the Champions League playoffs!