Yellow-and-blue opens season triumphantly

Maccabi Tel Aviv takes care of Hap PT with 3-1 winning performance in Ramat Gan.

MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Moussa Konate311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI TEL AVIV’S Moussa Konate311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv survived a scare before overcoming the struggling Hapoel Petah Tikva 3- 1 to get its Premier League campaign off to a winning start at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Sunday night.
After its mightily impressive 3- 0 win over Panathinaikos in the first leg of the Europa League playoffs on Thursday night, the only question ahead of Sunday’s match seemed to be by what margin Maccabi would defeat the bankrupt Petah Tikva, which begins the season with a ninepoint deduction.
However, Gili Landau’s team was at least equal to Tel Aviv for the first hour of the match, which was eventually decided by two goals in three secondhalf minutes by Maccabi substitutes Barak Itzhaki (69) and Moussa Konate (71).
“Clearly a league match in between two Europa League games is far from ideal,” Maccabi coach Moti Ivanir said. “You can’t just flip a switch and expect everything to work so we are very pleased with this win.”
Ivanir started the match with a midfield made completely of fresh products of the club’s youth department, but his team only really seized control after he introduced his substitutions in the second half.
Nevertheless, the coach was not disappointed with the performance of his youngsters on Sunday night.
“Maccabi has decided to go in a certain direction,” Ivanir said.
“Of course we want to win every match, but when you decide to use so many young players there are also some bad moments.
Eventually, these players will learn from experience and will be much better.”
Armon Ben-Naim gave Petah Tikva a surprise lead after 10 minutes.
An excellent team move ended with Or Fishbein laying the ball off for Ben-Naim, who found the bottom left corner with an accurate effort from the edge of the area.
However, it took Maccabi just five minutes to equalize.
Dor Micha’s ball found Roberto Colautti in the box and the striker turned and released an unexpected shot that caught Petah Tikva goalkeeper Austin Ejide off guard.
Eli Zizov should have put Maccabi in front a minute from the interval, but his shot went high above Ejide’s goal.
Guy Tzarfati squandered a golden opportunity for the hosts seven minutes into the second half when he fired just wide from 20 meters out, and as expected, Petah Tikva would live to rue its missed chances.
Just moments after coming on as a substitute, Itzhaki caught Ejide napping in the 69th minute, blasting the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle before fellow substitute Konate wrapped up the win with a close range header two minutes later.
Hapoel Tel Aviv will look to match title-favorites Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv with a victory when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva at Bloomfield Stadium on Monday.