Zahavi scores his 100th league goal on a second half penalty; Igiebor and Rikan add their first of the season prior to a Champions League date with Chelsea
Maccabi Tel Aviv visited Hapoel Haifa at Sammy Ofer Stadium on Matchday Eleven after the two week international break that gave the players much needed rest and relaxation. Following a 0:0 first half, Captain Eran Zahavi scored his 100th league goal and 10th of the season on a 49th minute penalty. Nosa Igiebor and Avi Rikan would also add goals for the Yellow-and-Blue after Haifa was reduced to ten men following the penalty for the 3:0 victory.
With almost a full complement of players at his disposal and a midweek Champions League clash against Chelsea in mind, Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic juggled up his starting lineup. Serbian keeper Predrag Rajkovic started in goal with Yuval Shpungin, Avi Rikan, Eitan Tibi and Carlos Garcia just in front of him. The midfield was manned by Gal Alberman, Shlomi Azulay, Nosa Igiebor and Gili Vermouth. Eden Ben Basat featured as striker with captain Eran Zahavi just behind him on the attack.
The first forty five minutes ended scoreless with Maccabi controlling 75% of the play in the first half, but it was Rajkovic who was quite busy with Haifa having four chances on goal. The Yellow-and-Blue keeper had to be on his toes making a number of terrific saves, however none was better than Haifa’s 37th minute attempt. Reds striker Ma’aran Lala received a deep ball in the Maccabi box but Rajkovic was in the right place at the right time to make the point blank range save to keep the sides deadlocked at the half.
Eli Dasa was introduced after the break to jump start the champion’s offense and it didn’t take Maccabi long to do exactly that. Azulay’s 49th minute shot glanced off of Bruno Pinheiro’s arm in the box that was called a handball by referee Daniel Bar Natan, good for a penalty. Zahavi stepped up to the spot 11 meters from the goal and slotted a perfect ball low and to the left of Haifa keeper Premysl Kovar for his 100th Israel League goal and his tenth of the season.
Immediately after the goal, Haifa’s Dor Malul was promptly shown red for dissent giving Maccabi a one man advantage that they would capitalize on in the 68th minute. Igiebor slammed the ball home for his first league goal of the year after receiving an intelligent cross goalmouth pass by Dasa from the right side. Vermouth had laid the ball off for Dasa helping create a wonderful strike by the Nigerian.
Maccabi added to its lead in the 77th minute with Rikan getting in on the action, scoring his first of the season. Ben Basat gave the ball to Zahavi at the top of the box and smartly handed it off to the oncoming Rikan on the left side of the goal and placed the ball past a diving Kovar.
The Yellow-and-Blue moved into first place in the Israel League prior to their Champions League Matchday Five game against Chelsea this coming Tuesday, 21:45 at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Make sure to keep up-to-date with the latest Maccabi Tel Aviv news by downloading the brand new App from the AppStore, on the Official club website or on the official Facebook Page.