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Zahavi scores Maccabi’s first, still look for points

Photo Dov Halickman

Captain Eran Zahavi scored on a 75th minute penalty kick which was only good enough to cut the Porto lead to 3:1 on Matchday Four

Maccabi Tel Aviv took on FC Porto on Matchday Four of the UEFA Champions League at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa as Captain Eran Zahavi scored in the second half on a penalty kick for the Yellow-and-Blue’s only goal in a 3:1 defeat. The goal marked Maccabi’s first in Champions League play in 11 years and the first against a Portuguese club since Amir Turgeman’s strike against Boavista back in 2002.

Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic started an attacking lineup as the team searched for their first goal and points of the competition. ‘Keeper Predrag Rajkovic started behind a back four of Omri Ben Harush, Tal Ben Haim, Carlos Garcia and Eitan Tibi played behind midfielders Dor Peretz, Gal Alberman and Gili Vermouth. Up front Maccabi featured Avi Rikan, Tal Ben Chaim and Eran Zahavi.

Photo Dov Halickman

Photo Dov Halickman

The Yellow-and-Blue started like a house on fire with the attack being led by winger Tal Ben Chaim who garnered a 2nd minute chance in the early going. With Maccabi running on all cylinders offensively, ‘keeper Rajkovic needed to be super sharp on Porto striker Vincent Aboubakar’s scintillating strike from 20 metres out. Ben Chaim had a couple of incredible chances in the 15th minute but failed to find the back of the net.

In the 19th minute, Cristian Tello put the visitors ahead as Porto’s number 11 cut through the Maccabi defenders on the left side and put the ball behind Rajkovic for the lead. With both sides splitting time controlling the middle minutes of the first half, Aboubakar had a chance to double his side’s lead but the striker’s close range shot hit the left post and went out of bounds to keep the score as is after the first 45 minutes of play.

Photo Dov Halickman

Photo Dov Halickman

To start the second half Maccabi made two substitutions bringing on Eden Ben Basat and Nikola Mitrovic for Vermouth and Ben Harush but they were made to pay a very high price soon thereafter. Maxi Pereira sent a ball into the Maccabi box where Andre Andre made no mistake heading it right past a helpless Rajkovic to double their lead in the 50th minute.

Photo Dov Halickman

Photo Dov Halickman

The next ten minutes were all Zahavi as the determined Captain took matters into his own hands with a pair of fantastic chances that Casillas was able to save to keep the clean sheet miraculously intact. An additional opportunity by Zahavi was picked up by Casillas in the 61st minute as Maccabi mounted wave after offensive wave in search of a goal. However, Porto would score its third goal of the game on a classy Layun strike from a Tello pass that curled right past a diving Rajkovic to pad their lead.

Zahavi kept plugging away and would be rewarded for his efforts in the 75th minute being fouled in the Porto box by Pereira good for a penalty, and what a kick it would be. Finally, the moment Maccabi supporters had waited 11 years for, the chance for a Champions League goal!

Photo Dov Halickman

Photo Dov Halickman

The Captain stepped up to the spot and made no mistake putting a perfect ball behind Casillas that sent the crowd into pandemonium! The joy on Zahavi’s face after the strike was priceless getting the proverbial monkey off of the Yellow-and-Blue backs while cutting the visitors lead to 3:1. But that was all she wrote for Matchday Four as the referee blew the whistle after 90 minutes sending Maccabi home with a bitter sweet feeling, having scored a goal but still in search of their first points.