Maccabi Tel Aviv teammates celebrate after securing a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Beersheba.
(photo credit: ADI KRINGEL)
Eran Zahavi secured Maccabi Tel Aviv yet another significant win on Sunday night, scoring the only goal of the match in a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Beersheba at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
Zahavi found the back of the net for a fifth straight match over all competitions in first-half stoppage time, taking his tally over the past two weeks to eight goals.
Beersheba was the three-time defending champion’s biggest rival for the title over the last two seasons, and it was hoping to register a confidence-boosting win at Teddy, where it was hosting the match as its new Turner Stadium is still not ready.
After completing the most expensive signing in Israeli soccer history on the back of the draw for the Champions League group stage, Maccabi had plenty of reasons to be distracted on Sunday.
The yellow-and-blue was far from its best, but nevertheless took all three points for its second straight win to begin the season, with 19-year-old Serbian goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic, who is regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world and joined the team for a transfer fee estimated at 3 million euros, enjoying an impressive debut.
“These are three important points against one of the best Israeli teams,” said Maccabi coach Slavisa Jokanovic.
“We were the better team and reached many chances while Maccabi needed just one good chance for Zahavi to win,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “This is a painful defeat, but we are looking forward because we have a strong team which will fight until the end of the season.”
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Beersheba looked the fresher and the more determined team throughout the first half, but it rarely tested the new Maccabi goalkeeper, who was making his debut just a day after arriving in the country.
Maccabi made the most of its opportunity when it arrived, with Zahavi of course the man responsible for the goal, breaking the deadlock with his header 20 seconds from the end of the first half following a delightful team move.
Maccabi substitute Gili Vermouth should have killed off the game in the 63rd minute, but he couldn’t find the back of the net with only goalkeeper Dudu Goresh to beat, squandering Zahavi’s superb build-up play.
Four minutes later it was the Beersheba fans with their heads in their hands, with Rajkovic denying Elyaniv Barda’s initial attempt and Eli Dasa thwarting the Beersheba captain from two meters out moments later with a last-ditch tackle.
Barda thought he had scored in the 74th minute, but his goal was rightfully disallowed after he stole the ball from Rajkovic while he was bouncing it in the box.
Maccabi was content on sitting back and soaking up the Beersheba pressure until the end of the match and the hosts couldn’t breach the yellow- and-blue’s defense, giving Tel Aviv an important win early in the season.
Also Sunday, Beitar Jerusalem drew 0-0 at Maccabi Netanya.
Beitar registered its second straight goalless deadlock after last week’s stalemate with Hapoel Tel Aviv at Teddy Stadium.
On Monday, Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Acre.
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