Mac TA notches big first-leg triumph

Itzhaki, Alberman strike as yellow-and-blue heads home from Hungary with 2-0 lead over Gyori.

Eran Zahavi 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Eran Zahavi 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
A year after being exiled by the club, Barak Itzhaki scored a precious opener for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday night before a Gal Alberman stoppage-time strike gave the yellow-and-blue a 2-0 road victory over Gyori ETO of Hungary in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round.
Maccabi will be extremely confident of wrapping up its progress in the return leg at Bloomfield Stadium next Tuesday thanks to Itzhaki’s 76thminute goal and Alberman’s 94th-minute effort.
The 28-year-old Itzhaki was sent out on loan to Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta last season after Maccabi deemed him to be a negative influence on the squad.
However, he was brought back to Israel after a comeback season in Cyprus and was Maccabi’s best player on the pitch on Wednesday.
Itzhaki also created numerous other chances which his teammates failed to convert, but Alberman ensured Maccabi registered a two-goal win which should allow it to comfortably secure its progress next week.
To reach the group stage, Maccabi will need to not only overcome Gyori, but also triumph in two more home-and-away ties in the third qualifying round and the playoff stage.
Maccabi pressured the Hungarians in their half right from the kickoff, forcing turnovers and dominating possession.
Alberman registered the yellow- and-blue’s first shot on target in the eighth minute with a powerful effort from the edge of the box, but ’keeper Lubos Kamenar was up to the task and also denied Maharan Radi two minutes later.
Despite its promising start, Maccabi was fortunate not to find itself a goal down in the 13th minute.
Roland Varga scored from close range, but he was correctly adjudged to be offside and Maccabi was spared.
Nevertheless, Gyori drew encouragement from coming so close to netting the opener and Maccabi dropped a gear to hand the hosts the initiative.
Maccabi’s new Spanish goalkeeper Juan Pablo Colinas made an impressive start in the yellow-and-blue, denying Varga’s long-range effort with an acrobatic save.
The visitors came centimeters away from the opener 10 minutes after the interval, with Rade Prica’s glancing header leaving Kamenar stranded, but just missing the target.
In the 66th minute it was Radi’s turn to be wasteful, failing to find the back of the net despite only having the ‘keeper to beat, with Prica fluffing the rebound.
Itzhaki’s excellent build-up play helped create many of Maccabi’s chances and he wasn’t far from scoring himself in the 73rd minute, firing high from inside the box.
Three minutes later Itzhaki would complete the job.
Two minutes after coming on as a substitute, Dor Micha found Itzhaki with his cross and the striker gave Kamenar no chance with a superb finish.
Radi, Micha and Eran Zahavi all should have really doubled Maccabi’s lead in the final 10 minutes, but their misses were soon forgotten, with Alberman’s goal giving Tel Aviv a cushion which should see it easily advance next week.