WOW! What a match we had! A Tel Aviv derby between Maccabi & Hapoel at its finest! The first half saw four substitutes, a penalty goal that wasn’t a penalty, a certain penalty with a Hapoel handball in the box that wasn’t called, hard tackles all over the pitch, amazing saves and great action.
But yet there was more!
Before the players even hit the pitch with Maccabi Tel Aviv fans unveiling a massive Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back themed banner that covered sections 10 & 11. Not only did we get that but the loud speakers played Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme music! OOOHHHH BBBBBAAAABBBYYYY!!!!!! What else could you want in a football match!
There was great football that was played as well. Both teams made numerous substitutes during the first half with Itay Schecter going down in the first few minutes and was replaced by Israel Zaguri who lost his starting spot to youngster Ramzi Sfori and then Bryan Gerzicich came up lame later on as captain Shay Abutbul replaced him.
Maccabi was gifted a penalty by referee Liran Liani in the 32nd minute when Shay Abutbol yanked down Barak Yitzhaki as he entered the box, but replays showed that he was pulled down just before he entered the holy of holies of the football pitch. Regardless, Yitzhaki sold it well enough to make Liani yank out yellow card and point to the spot where ex-Red Eran Zahavi slotted home the goal and gave his former fans a gunslinger salute that for sure will not be forgotten for many years to come.
Soon thereafter Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Paulo Sousa changed tactics by bringing on offensive speedster Dor Micha for defender Omri Den Harush and went from four in the back to three. That move however, almost bit him hard as Hapoel had an unbelievable chance that Maccabi ‘keeper Juan Pablo had to swipe away. Sousa switched back to the 4 defenders when he brought on Yoav Ziv in the second half for Tal Ben Haim as Maccabi tired from 3 games in 8 days decided to hang on and take the slim victory.
Sheran Yeini had a wonderful match for Maccabi as he supplied many long balls down the side of the field both on the right and left flanks and Carlos Garcia & Eytan Tibi were rocks in the central defender positions. Trying to get by them is like attempting to go through a brick wall. And that’s why Gili Vermut & Omer Damari were so ineffective without having the ability to advance more chances at Maccabi Tel Aviv. Sean Malcha coming off the bench for Ran Ben Shimon’s side was excellent in the 15 or so minutes he had replacing another youngling Ramzi Sfori.
But it looks like it’s back to the drawing board for RBS & his Hapoel Tel Aviv team and they will have to wait for round 26 for their next crack at the Yellow & Blue of Maccabi Tel Aviv.