Test of Character: Ivic, Zahavi, Bitton and Saborit all talk following Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 3rd Rd Conference League victory

Aug 12, 2022 | Football

Maccabi Tel Aviv made it by Aris Thessaloniki 3-2 on aggregate after falling 2-1 in Greece in the second leg of the two legged tie as they advanced to the Playoff Round of the Conference League. The Yellow & Blue came into the clash after a 2-0 win at Bloomfield Stadium in Israel but went down a man early on in the second half after an extremely questionable call by the referee which led to an Aris penalty goal for a 1-0 lead. However, with the introduction of Eran Zahavi, Vladen Ivic’s squad was able to draw even at 1-1 on a fantastic strike by Maccabi’s #7. Aris grabbed a 2-1 lead to close the gap once again but Maccabi was able to hold off the hosts over the final 10 minutes to move onto the next round where French side Nice will be waiting.

“It was a tough match for all of us – for the fans who travelled here and those who followed us back in Israel,” Maccabi coach Vladen Ivic said. “It was not easy to play with 10 men especially as we were trailing by 1-0, so to play like that for more than half an hour, at such a stadium and against such a strong opponent was far from easy. Ultimately we achieved what we wanted and if there is something positive we can take from this match – the players’ character shown here tonight. A team that wants to be in the next round. I am happy for the players who gave everything tonight.”

Ivic also spoke about Eran Zahavi and his importance to the squad, “I said during my interview on Greek TV – I worked with many good players during my career and in Greece as well. But if we are talking about Eran then he is a star. I didn’t see too many players who work like he does. I am happy he is with us. We are happy as a team to have qualified as a team and we will continue playing as a team.”

Eran Zahavi – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv


“It’s really great,” Zahavi said following the match. “It’s also great because this was so tough. These games bring a team together and it shows our character that we can handle these types of difficult situations. Our fans did a great job and made it into a home match for us. We are very happy but now we have to already begin looking ahead to the playoff round which will be even harder. The refereeing wasn’t to our favor at a very tough pitch. When we were down to 10-men we showed huge character. We will take the positives from this game and continue onwards.”

“You know how we know there is character on the pitch? It’s because every tackle that is made is for one another. We work hand and hand with each other and support each other and run on the pitch for each other. You see how our bench cheers for one another which says everything about us.”

Zahavi also looked ahead to a very tough playoff round tie against French side Nice, “The atmosphere at Bloomfield Stadium against Nice has to be even better. The fans that came to Greece did an amazing job and I’m not taking it for granted at all. But Bloomfield much have the same feeling for any visiting club so they won’t have an easy time. We will analyze how we played and will see what we did well and what needs to be worked on.”

Eran Zahavi – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv


Nir Bitton also summed up the game as Maccabi heads to the playoff round, “There will be some that will say this was a heroic win and I will be one that will say that the last 40 minutes of the match were the longest of my life. Every 10 minutes I looked at the clock. When we were issued the red card I said to myself that this is the chance for us to show that we are men, to show that we have character. This game was a real test of our character.”

This was a very tough test for us against a volcano and we passed it,” Bitton continued. “I am expecting more from our fans at Bloomfield next week and that it will be packed. We saw what the supporters can do in the game against Aris but we need even more than that against Nice. We need the fans to come and support us right until the final minute in order for us to get to the second leg and then hopefully give them something to be happy about.”

Bitton also spoke about Eran Zahavi and what his presence brings to the team, “What can be said. It’s amazing to watch him, he just has endless energy and he always adds something new. Eran is a role model both on and off of the pitch and he has such an influence of what it means to be a winner and shows the desire to win all of test time. He is also someone who is demanding of every player and every moment in training sessions and beyond.”

Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv


Defender Enric Saborit also spoke about the two-legged tie, “We’re happy that we were able to advance to the playoff round. This was a very tough game in a difficult stadium with a terrific atmosphere, but our fans really helped us out as well. We did a good job at Bloomfield and that gave us the advantage in order to get by Aris. We worked on playing these types of games throughout training camp and I believe that we have a strong team that can play in these matches. I think we have a good enough team that can get past Nice in the next round as we will work hard and do everything we can to get to the group stages.”

“I am sure that the fans understand who we are playing in the upcoming games and we need them all with us next week at Bloomfield Stadium.”

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