Maccabi Tel Aviv striker Vidar Orn Kjartansson scored his team’s winner in last night’s 1-0 victory against Altach in Austria in the first leg of the Europa League playoffs..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Maccabi Tel Aviv extended its winning streak in Europe to seven matches on Thursday, closing on a place in the Europa League group stage with a 1-0 win over Altach in Austria.
Maccabi once more only required a single goal to claim a victory, its third straight by a 1-0 score-line to improve its combined goal difference in qualifying to 13-1. The yellow-and-blue is aiming to participate in the group stage of a European competition for a third straight season, reaching the Champions League groups in 2015/16 before qualifying for the Europa groups last year.
For a second straight season it began its campaign in the first qualifying round, and despite displaying mediocre form, it maintained its perfect record on Thursday after winning all six of its previous matches against Tirana of Albania, KR of Iceland and Panionios of Greece.
Vidar Orn Kjartansson scored the only goal of the match in the 68th minute on Thursday and Maccabi will be extremely confident of qualifying for the group stage in next Thursday’s second leg in Netanya.
Kjartansson had previously scored two goals in Europa League qualifying and warmed up for Thursday’s match by netting a hat-trick in last week’s Toto Cup win over Maccabi Petah Tikva.
Both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities in the first half, a recurring theme in Maccabi’s qualifying campaign to date. For the sixth straight qualifier, the first half ended in a goalless deadlock, but the game would open up after the break. Kjartansson squandered a golden opportunity four minutes into the second half, attempting a clever shot when he had time to control the ball with only goalkeeper Martin Kobras to beat.
Altach should have really taken the lead a minute later, with Cameroonian midfielder Moumi Ngamaleu blasting the ball above the crossbar.
Maccabi was living dangerously, somehow maintaining a clean sheet after a string of Altach chances in the 63rd minute.
The visitors had ’keeper Predrag Rajkovic to thank for saving Andreas Lienhart’s powerful shot before the rebound went out off the crossbar.
The hosts came close to scoring yet again from the ensuing corner, with Christian Gebauer’s header beating Rajkovic, only for defender Avi Rikan to clear the ball with a lunging header on the goal-line.
Maccabi made the most of the reprieve, netting the opener four minutes later. Ofir Davidzada burst down the left flank and found Kjartansson in space. The Iceland international made the most of the opportunity, finding the back of the net with a bullet from just inside the area.
One goal was again all Maccabi needed to shut down on defense and secure yet another victory.