Maccabi Tel Aviv began their European quest with a disappointing 2:1 loss to Hibernians FC in Malta. Next Tuesday at Bloomfield Stadium, Maccabi will look to turn around the two-legged tie in front of their home supporters.
Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic started his first match in charge of the club with an offensive lineup featuring only three defenders in front of ‘keeper Juan Pablo with Tal Ben Haim, Carlos Garcia and Eitan Tibi. Up front, Eden Ben Basat featured as a central striker with Tal Ben Chaim playing on his left side and Dor Micha on his right with Nosa Igiebor playing an advanced role for the Yellow-and-Blue as well.
Manning the midfield was acting captain Gal Alberman, Nikola Mitrovic and Gili Vermouth with the latter having Maccabi’s opening opportunity of the game with his quick shot being miraculously saved by Hibernians ‘keeper Jurgen Borg, giving the hosts hope that this may be their magical evening.
Soon thereafter, Hibernians Brazilian striker Jorge Da Silva Pereira “Jorginho” had a wonderful chance that went just left of the goal. It was then Maccabi’s turn to go downfield as they took a 1:0 lead on a goal by Nosa Igiebor. The Nigerian midfielder almost added to his tally but his two brilliant headers went wide and his wonderful setup to Ben Basat was magnificently saved again by Borg keeping the score at 1:0 going into the halftime break.
Each side continued with chances throughout the second half as both teams could have been called for a penalty early on in the final 45 minutes. Ben Basat picked up a yellow card for dissent after it appeared he as pulled down by a Hibernians player and complained to the referee. Maccabi introduced Omri Ben Harush for Nikola Mitrovic and a bit later on brought in Barak Itzhaki for Gili Vermouth, but the substitutions didn’t help as Hibernians equalized on a goal by “Jorginho” Pereira to make the score 1:1.
However, Hibernians were not done as the home team took the bull by the horns and scored their second goal of the match in the 85th minute off a perfect Andrew Cohen perfect that Jackson De Lima headed into the Maccabi goal. The Yellow-and-Blue looked for the equalizer but it was not to be as Hibernians continued to dominate the play until the final whistle.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will head to Bloomfield next Tuesday night for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League second round qualifying matches, with Hibernians holding a slight 2:1 advantage.
Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic didn’t hide his disappointment at the end of the match and said to the club’s Official Website: “We didn’t deserve to win today. Hibernians played better than us with much more passion and ambition and they deserved the victory. We will have to make some changes going into the next match and it’s impossible to win if we don’t play with passion. Maccabi has some great players and they will have to step up to the plate and show their qualities during the next game. We talked a lot about the good things from last season but in football you can’t rest on your laurels.”
Veteran defender Tal Ben Haim who was making his first official appearance for Maccabi since coming back to the club, also talked about his feelings about the match: “We are very disappointed. We played against a decent club, but we had to win this match. Thankfully this is only the first half and we will raise our game to a much higher level at Bloomfield Stadium in front of our fans who will help us get to the next stage. In order for us to win the game next week everyone of us will have to raise our level of play, that’s no secret and we aren’t hiding from that fact. We will need to play much better in the next match and I’m sure that we will do just that.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Gal Alberman also spoke to the club’s Official Website about the disappointing result in last night’s UEFA Champions League second round qualifying match.
“We wanted to end this game with a different result, but we will have to lift our heads up as we know that there is another 90 minutes to play. There are things that need to be fixed and we will do that in order to move onto the next round. We started the match off well, scoring a goal in the first half and then had a number of chances to take a bigger lead. But once we weren’t able to do that, Hibernians started to have opportunities and we just didn’t deserve to win.”
The veteran midfielder also talked about his role as captain in place of the injured Eran Zahavi: “As a leader on the club I wanted to do more for the team, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to today and I couldn’t help us get a better result, but this is already history. We have to lift ourselves up and do a better job next match, because what we saw tonight wasn’t good enough.”
Bloomfield will play a big role next week for Maccabi and Alberman discussed that as well “I’m sure our supporters will stand by our side and I’m positive they will be a huge help. Together with them we’ll be able to hit the targets we set for ourselves and advance to the next round.”