Maccabi Tel Aviv advances with tight triumph over Brest

Home victory earns yellow-and-blue a duel with Salzburg, seals Europa group stage, with Champions League within reach

MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate on the pitch following their 1-0 win over Dinamo Brest in Champions League qualifying (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
MACCABI TEL AVIV players celebrate on the pitch following their 1-0 win over Dinamo Brest in Champions League qualifying
Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Dinamo Brest late Wednesday night to book its place in the Champions League Playoff Round, where it will meet FC Red Bull Salzburg in a two-legged tie for a ticket to the group stages of Europe’s top club competition.
Dan Bitton scored the lone goal of the game as the newcomer converted a second-half penalty from the spot to help the yellow-and-blue book a spot in at least the Europa League group stages should it not find a way past the Austrian champion.
“We’re very happy,” said a relieved Maccabi head coach Giorgos Donis. “We guaranteed our place in the Europa League and now awaits a big challenge – to battle Salzburg for a place in the Champions League. Dinamo Brest was very dangerous in transition and we pressed them very well. We played organized and didn’t give them a chance to do anything. This was a very important lesson for us.”
Tel Aviv striker Itay Shechter also reflected on the win.
“This was a super important victory for the club. We knew that this was going to be a tough clash but at the pregame meeting we told ourselves that we weren’t going to give this game away. We know that we didn’t play extremely well, but this was a game of character and we got the result.”
Maccabi hosted Brest in the third-round qualifying contest at Bloomfield Stadium as both teams had much at stake with at least a guaranteed ticket to the Europa League group stages on the line with a victory.
Donis made a number of changes to his starting lineup as the Greek bench boss employed a 5-3-2 formation in front of ’keeper Daniel Tenenbaum. Shechter and Bitton began up front while Eyal Golasa, Dan Glazer and Dor Peretz manned the midfield. Ofir Davidzada and Maor Kandil were the two wing-backs and Enric Saborit, Sheran Yeini and Eitan Tibi anchored the defense as the three center-backs.
Maccabi also came into the game after a rough start to the domestic league season, having taken only one point in two matches.
Siarhei Kavalchuk’s Dinamo Brest looked to rely on an attacking trio of Abdoulaye Diallo, Mikhail Gordelchuk and Artem Milevskiy as it was attempting to play better than its record indicates in the Belarus league, where it sits in ninth place after 21 games.
Maccabi controlled the pace early as Shechter had a marvelous chance when he took a terrific Sheran Yeini pass, but his attempt just skipped by the far post while Golasa skied his chance over the goal in the fourth minute.
Peretz tried his luck from long distance, but Sergei Ignatovich made the alert stop in the 18th minute as the contest remained goalless.
Bitton sent a sharp corner into the box, but Tibi was unable to direct the ball towards the goal in the 35th minute while Kandil was booked with a yellow card for a reckless tackle on Diallo seven minutes later as the first half ended deadlocked at 0-0.
Brest had the first chance of the second half when Pavel Sedko’s ball went out, but minutes later Peretz was pulled down by Gaby Kiki in the box during a corner kick which resulted in a penalty that Bitton converted from the spot as Maccabi took a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute.
Donis made his first substitution of the clash when he replaced Itay Shechter with Nick Blackman in the 56th minute while Peretz had another great opportunity from the left side of the box but the keeper once again was up to the task five minutes later.
The yellow-and-blue brought on Avi Rikan in place of Golasa in the 65th minute and 10 minutes later the hosts had a trio of chances to double the advantage, but Tel Aviv couldn’t find the back of the goal. Bitton delivered a brilliant corner, but Saborit’s header just missed the target, Davidzada’s sitter off a Kandil cross wildly flew over the bar and Rikan’s shot also came up short as Maccabi continued to cling to the one-goal advantage.
Blackman had a pair of chances in the 81st minute while a minute later Maccabi made its final substitution as Yonatan Cohen entered the fray in place of Bitton.
Davdizada’s chance was way off target four minutes later while Rikan picked up a yellow card as the match entered injury time.
The visitors desperately looked for the equalizer, but Maccabi was able to keep Brest at bay to advance to the Champions League playoffs and earn a double-date with Austrian powerhouse FC Red Bull Salzburg in a tie beginning next week, with the first game being hosted by the yellow-and-blue.