Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted the Czech Republic champions Viktoria Plzen at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv for the 1st leg of the UEFA Champions League third round qualifying matches. As Maccabi continues to advance in Europe the competition gets tougher and that’s exactly what we saw this evening.
Maccabi Tel Aviv came out of the box strong as they sliced and diced their way through the Plzen defense throughout the first 15 minutes of the match. However, the visitors were able to hold their own and not concede a goal as Eden Ben Basat, Tal Ben Chaim and Eran Zahavi all had chances to give the Yellow-and-Blue a lead.
In the 17th minute Plzen’s Bosnian striker Aidin Mahmutovic was able to break free from the Maccabi defense and slip the ball past ‘keeper Juan Pablo to give the Czech side a shock 0:1 lead. Just four minutes later Plzen doubled the score to 0:2 as Milan Petrzela put the ball into the back of the goal to give the visitors a second away goal. This allowed them to sit back defensively for large portions of the match over the last 70 minutes.
As Maccabi got back into the swing of things they began stringing passes together and creating chances. But they were unable to beat ‘keeper Matus Kozacik and what seemed to be a 10 man defensive front for the remainder of the first half.
The second half began with the Yellow-and-Blue making a pair of substitutions bringing in Maccabi’s newest player Avi Rikan and Gili Vermouth for Eden Ben Basat and Dor Micha. This allowed coach Slavisa Jokanovic to move Eran Zahavi back to playing a false striker as he did in the match last week against Hibernians that Maccabi won 5:1.
With the home side controlling the tempo they picked up where they left off in the first half getting a number of chances on set plays but couldn’t seem to find a way to crack through the Plzen defense. Barak Itzhaki was introduced in the 64th minute for winger Tal Ben Chaim to help Maccabi turn up the offense another notch.
And turn up a notch Itzhaki did with a gorgeous and elegant goal to cut the lead to 1:2! Eran Zahavi passed the ball to the streaking Itzhaki who knew how to bury the ball behind the hesitant Kozacik in the 79th minute. Maccabi’s chances would come fast and furious over the last 10 minutes of play but the Yellow-And-Blue couldn’t find the equalizer as Plzen escaped Bloomfield with a 1:2 victory.
Next week the second-leg of the UEFA Champions League third round qualifying matches will be played in Plzen, Czech Republic as Maccabi will try and find a way to win by at least two goals and continue to advance in the competition.