Mac TA blanks Mogren in Mizrahi’s debut

Yellow-and-blue come out strong in second half for new coach en route to 2-0 triumph.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
It may not have been the rout its fans had hoped for, but Maccabi Tel Aviv took a significant step towards the third qualifying round of the Europa League on Thursday night, beating FK Mogren of Montenegro 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
After bringing in 10 new players over the summer, there were high expectations from the new-look Maccabi in its first official match. Eight of new coach Yossi Mizrahi’s 11 starters were making their debut and some supporters were already getting frustrated after the first half ended in a goalless deadlock.
However, two goals in the first seven minutes of the second half gave Maccabi a cushion it should easily hold on to when it visits Montenegro for the return leg next Thursday.
Maccabi will learn who it could next face when the draw for the third qualifying round is made in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday. Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Yehuda, which faced Shamrock Rovers in Dublin late Thursday night, will also be waiting nervously to discover who they are paired with in the third qualifying round.
Maccabi pressured Mogren from the start, but struggled to create clear-cut chances. The 12,000 fans on hand had to wait until the 23rd minute before they saw Barak Itzhaki come centimeters from scoring the opener.
A powerful volley from the former Betar Jerusalem striker was only kept out by the post in what would prove to be Tel Aviv’s best opportunity of the first 45 minutes.
The Montenegrins’ cynical tactics frustrated Maccabi and coach Yossi Mizrahi sent in forward Yuval Avidor in place of defensive midfielder Shiran Yeini at halftime in the hope of breaking down the Mogren defense.
In the first minute of the second half Avidor laid the ball off for Roberto Colautti, but the Israel international slipped and sent his shot wide.
Less than two minutes later Maor Buzaglo’s volley was well saved by Ivan Janjusevic, however the ’keeper would gift Maccabi the opener a minute later.
Despite reaching Yoav Ziv’s effort from outside the box, Janjusevic made a complete mess of his save and the ball rolled over his outstretched hands into the back of the net.
The hosts kept their foot on the gas in the subsequent minutes and it was clear it was only a matter of time until they would score their second goal.
In the 50th minute, Klemi Saban squandered a golden opportunity, but it was forgotten two minutes later when Bosnian Haris Medunjanin doubled the team’s lead with a clinical finish.
Maccabi continued to push forward in search of a third goal, but it was clear the team still needs time to gel and the fans will be expecting a vast improvement by the time the Premier League gets under way next month.