Mac TA earns injury-time draw at Basel

Zahavi’s heroics put yellow-and-blue in driver’s seat. Group stage berth hinges on next week’s return leg in Israel

August 20, 2015 05:38
2 minute read.
Eran Zahavi

Maccabi Tel Aviv star Eran Zahavi scored both of his team’s goals last night – including an injury-time thriller after F c b asel had gone ahead 2-1 late – as the yellow-and-blue rallied for a 2-2 draw in the Champions League playoff first leg in Switzerland. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

A stunning Eran Zahavi equalizer in the sixth minute of stoppage time gave Maccabi Tel a viv a 2-2 draw at FC Basel in the first leg of the Champions League playoffs on Wednesday night, leaving the yellow-and- blue well placed to reach the group stage for the first time in 11 years next week.

After shocking Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic two weeks ago to advance to the playoffs, the three-time defending Israeli champion got the job done on the road yet again, with Zahavi netting another brace, scoring two precious away goals ahead of the return leg at Bloomfield Stadium next Tuesday.

Maccabi registered just four shots throughout the entire match, but Eran Zahavi netted his fifth and sixth goals in four qualifiers this season, the first in the 31st minute. Matias Delgado equalized from the penalty spot eight minutes later, and Zahavi’s late header would cancel out Breel Embolo’s strike in the 88th minute.

Maccabi, which snapped Basel’s eight-match winning streak over all competitions to start the season, is aiming to reach the group stage for the second time in club history, and the first since the 2004/05 season. The win against Plzen has already ensured Maccabi an extended continental campaign, as the losers in the playoffs are all handed an automatic berth to the Europa League group stage.

Basel dominated the possession from the first whistle and Maccabi goalkeeper Juan Pablo was called into action after six minutes, saving Birkir Bjarnason’s attempt.

Maccabi was centimeters away from finding itself a goal down four minutes later, with Marc Janko mistiming his lunge and failing to connect with the ball with the net at his mercy.

After surviving the early pressure, Maccabi began to push forward ever so slightly and it scored with its first shot towards the Basel goal in the 31st minute.

A perfectly executed free-kick move saw Avi Rikan square the ball from the left for Zahavi, who lost his marker and fired into the bottom left corner.

However, Tel Aviv’s lead wouldn’t last for long, with defender Tal Ben- Haim completely mistiming his tackle, leaving Delgado without one of his boot’s after stepping on his foot in the box.

The Argentinian stepped up to convert the penalty in the 39th minute to level the score and at least ensure the Swiss had something to show for their 71 percent of possession in the first half.

The start of the second half developed much like the first, with Basel dictating the play, but registering few scoring opportunities.

Daniel Hoegh thought he had moved Basel in front in the 75th minute, but his goal was ruled out for a foul on Gal Alberman.

Despite being on the back foot for almost the entire night, Maccabi could have gone home with a win after Tal Ben-Haim reached a golden opportunity with seven minutes to play. However, the winger took too long to shoot and had his attempt blocked by Hoegh at the last moment.

Maccabi paid a dear price at the other end four minutes later, with Embolo scoring, only for Zahavi to snatch the dramatic equalizer.

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