Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Zorya Luhansk 3-2 win as Dor Peretz scored a second half brace to take the UEFA Conference League win and move closer to qualifying for the knockout stage of the competition.
The yellow-and-blue hosted the Ukrainian club at the TSC Arena in Backa Topola, Serbia instead of Bloomfield Stadium due to the ongoing war in Israel as they looked to pick up 3 points. Head coach Robbie Keane and his squad looked to not only close the gap on first place Gent in Group B but also create separation with the rest of the teams and put a stranglehold on a place in the knockout rounds which begins in February.
For most of the first half, both teams had trouble finding chances but as the match moved closer to the break. Gaby Kanichowsky handed Eran Zahavi a beautiful ball at the top of the box that the striker sent off of the bar and into the back of the Zorya goal for a 1-0 lead at the stroke of halftime.
The second half began just as the first ended with another Maccabi marker as Dor Peretz scored his first of the game by taking advantage of a defensive mistake by the visitors while the midfielder completed his brace in the 59th minute thanks to an active Kanichowsky and Avishay Cohen.
However, just as the hosts got comfortable their former striker Eduardo Guerrero now playing for Zorya scored off an Orlando Mosquera error while Ihor Horbach cut the lead to just a single goal in the 87th minute putting pressure on Maccabi as the game neared its end. Easy side had chances into injury time, but the yellow-and-blue were able to hold on and take the 3-points.
“I don’t think we almost lost as Zorya are a good team,” Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach Robbie Keane began. “We knew that Zorya would get chances and we got the result in the end. We also knew that the second half was going to be difficult because of match fitness. Next up is Thursday’s game against Breidablik which we will now focus on and then we will concentrate on the matches after that.”
The man of the match Dor Peretz spoke about being one of the goal scoring leaders in the Conference League as well as the contest from his point of view, “I am very happy that I am in the situation but it’s a team effort that allows me to score. I played 90 minutes and even if I was tiring I wanted to be there with the rest of the team and take the win. We were definitely a bit tired near the end and we lost focus but I’m happy that we won and took the points.”
The Israel Premier League was back in action for the first time since the start of the war as Maccabi Haifa slipped by Hapoel Petach Tikva 2-1 in a game that as played behind closed doors and no fans in attendance as per the Home Front Command’s instructions.
The Greens opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Ilay Hagag slotted home his first goal thank to a brilliant give and go with Tjaron Chery to give the hosts a 1-0 lead at an empty Sammy Ofer Stadium. Chery who had assisted on Hagag’s goal scored one of his own off a Lior Refaelov pass just ahead of halftime to double the advantage. However, Roie Elimelech pulled one back for Petach Tikva early on in the second half to cut the lead in half but that was all that they would be able to muster as Haifa took the points.
“It wasn’t ideal to be here with no fans at Sammy Ofer but we want to get back to playing and give the supporters a couple of hours of soccer to enjoy,” Maccabi Haifa Head Coach Messay Dego said. “I told the guys that even though we were up 2-0 at halftime we have to play as it is 0-0. But we didn’t play well in the second half and gave up a quick goal. Maccabi Haifa’s goal is to win the championship and we will play every game to win.”
“There was silence in the stadium and that is not what should characterize a soccer stadium in any way shape or form,” Hapoel Petach Tikva Head Coach Ofer Tesselpepe said. “We had some chances in the second half and I am proud of the pawers who put in a terrific effort but nonetheless we are still disappointed.”
In National Team news, following Israel’s elimination from the UEFA European Championship qualifying tournament, the blue-and-white will have one last chance to punch their ticket to this coming summer’s competition in Germany through the playoffs which they qualified due to their showing in the last Nations League. Alon Hazan’s squad will face Iceland in the semifinals at home and should they win they will play the winner of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine match away for one of the final three places available at the 2024 Euros.
National Team Head Coach Alon Hazan spoke about the draw, “We will play a team that is at our level and while some may consider Iceland an easy opponent, we have to remember that we had two tough games with them in the Nations League that ended in draws. Every team that are in the playoffs feel that they are worthy of playing in the Euros and this will make it a tough matchup for us. We will prepare ourselves properly in order to advance to the tournament after the disappointment of not qualifying directly from the group stages.”