Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Tal Ben-Haim scored the only goal of last night’s 1-0 win over Maccabi Petah Tikva in the first leg of the State Cup quarterfinals.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv completed its pre-season training camp with a 3-0 win over Spartak Trnava of Slovakia on Saturday, with new signing Omer Atzili finding the back of the net in his first game with the yellow-and-blue.
Maccabi will already open its 2017/18 campaign on Thursday when it hosts Tirana of Albania in the first leg of the Europa League first qualifying round. Maccabi is expected to cruise to the next round, with Tirana being relegated to the Albanian second division last season but qualifying for Europe due to its local cup triumph.
Awaiting Maccabi in the second round is the winner of the tie between SJK Seinajoki of Finland and KR Reykjavik of Iceland. Maccabi also began last season in the first qualifying round and came through four ties to reach the group stage.
Atzili joined his new teammates in the training camp in Austria after officially signing with the club last Wednesday.
The 23-year-old midfielder started on Saturday and played 60 minutes, scoring Maccabi’s second goal in the 56th minute after also playing a role in Vidar Orn Kjartansson’s opener in the 38th minute. Aaron Schoenfeld completed the scoring in the 90th minute.
“It’s great to play and come back. I was really excited before the match since it was my first game,” said Atzili, who turned down approaches from Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Haifa before joining Tel Aviv from Granada CF of Spain for a fee estimated at one million euros.
“I’m happy we played well, looked good and picked up a good result as we prepare for the match on Thursday.”
Atzili featured in only nine matches for Granada in his lone season in Spain after leaving Beitar Jerusalem last summer.
New head coach Jordi Cruyff, who left his role as sports director to take up a coaching position on a fulltime basis for the first time, was pleased with the training camp, but explained his team still has a long way to go.
“I thought the intensity at times was good and the passing was good,” said Cruyff.
“There is still a lot of work to do if you want to create a team that presses and wants more. Some players only had nine days holiday which is mentally difficult.
“Sometimes people underestimate that part. But I think everyone came with fresh energy willing to work with each other. That is for me the most important thing as we try to lay the foundations for the season.”
Winger Tal Ben-Haim didn’t take part in the match as he closes in on a move to Sparta Prague. Ben-Haim, who has a release clause in his contract that allows him to leave Maccabi for 2.9 million euros before July 15, is set to fly to Prague on Monday with the aim of putting the finishing touches to a lucrative deal that is expected to pay him around one million euros per season.