When one hears the term Classico the first thing that jumps into mind is Barcelona & Real Madrid. Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Bale, Suarez & Benzema. Last night in Israel however, the term Classico could refer to not only the great Spanish football match but also to Maccabi Tel Aviv & Maccabi Haifa, the two rivals on the Mediterranean coast featuring some of Israel’s great past & present. Zahavi, Benayoun, Atar.
Maccabi Tel Aviv dominated ball possession with a staggering 83% in the first half, but they only found a way to score one goal taking place in the first minute of play. After often criticized midfielder Nosa Igiebor schooled Medo Kamara turning him inside out in the midfield, Nikola Mitrovic lobbed a smart ball to Igiebor in the box and sent it home to take a quick 1-0 lead.
With Tel Aviv continuing their dominance, it was in typical fashion, Pako fashion that they just couldn’t find a way to finish off the game and get a 2nd or even 3rd goal in the one-sided first half.
As one of the reporters called it after the match, Nosa’s goal was the goal of Pako, referring to the coach and his belief in ball possession being the way to win matches. The percentages don’t lie, when you control the ball you will win, and this is a belief that Pako will take to his death.
However, even with all that ball possession and yes we’ve seen this frustrating movie many times before the crowd once again will get on both the coach and players. But Pako being Pako has 110% belief in his method and doesn’t waver from his philosophy one inch.
And when you get into a game of inches that was when the stars begin to shine and show up in the ways one would want from any top notch matchup with footballing greats.
Be it Ronaldo scoring to bring Real Madrid level with Barcelona at one or Luis Suarez putting his stamp on the great footballing matchups with a game winner, big games are when big players are made and thrive to be a part of.
Enter Eliran Atar for Haifa who stole a goal back. Greens ‘keeper Vladimir Stoyakovich launched a long ball that Tel Aviv central defender Eitan Tibi totally misjudged and gave Atar the few inches of an opening to quickly take the ball and put it past a sprawling Juan Pablo to draw Haifa even at one.
But when it comes to money time, that’s the time for the big time money time player to show up and snatch victory. Zahavi is by far and wide that money player for not only Maccabi Tel Aviv but also for Israeli football. Being able to take a shot in the tightest of quarters in a split second and then beat a top notch ‘keeper who had absolutely no chance because of the strength and speed of the strike shows the unbelievable quality of Zahavi. Being shadowed all match by Haifa and not being given a hair of space throughout the contest makes his 89th minute blast even more impressive.
Zahavi is a superstar. Zahavi is the present and future of Israel.
Coach Pako Ayestaran said clearly after the match that if Maccabi Tel Aviv wants to take a step forward they have to make every effort to keep such a player. Zahavi has a winning mentality and never is enough for him. He injects so much character not only during the game but also on a daily basis which can be more important than the game.
Star players win games. Star players rise to the occasion when facing top competition and this was the case with EZ7.
Pako also said the future depends on what we do on the present.
That’s quite a message to not only the players but to management as well.