Maccabi TA on brink of Europa progress

Yellow-and-blue beats Frankfurt 4-2 at Bloomfield to take control of second place in Group F.

MACCABI TEL AVIV striker Barak Itzhaki 370 (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
MACCABI TEL AVIV striker Barak Itzhaki 370
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv is on the verge of reaching the knockout stages of a European competition for the first time in club history after recording a thrilling 4-2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in Europa League action at Bloomfield Stadium last night.
A clinical first 35 minutes saw the yellow- and-blue surge into a 3-0 lead, with Eran Zahavi (14) scoring the opener before Barak Itzhaki netted a brace (30, 35).
An edgy start to the second half by Tel Aviv allowed Frankfurt back into the game, with Srdjan Lakic (63) and an Alexander Meier (67) penalty forcing a nervy finish to the match.
However, Maccabi held on and Zahavi capped the gripping showdown with a Panenka penalty to strengthen the yellow-and-blue’s hold on second place in Group F.
Maccabi moved to seven points, still two behind Frankfurt, but three ahead of APOEL Nicosia and four in front of Girondins de Bordeaux, which lost 2-1 in Cyprus on Thursday.
Frankfurt made six changes to the lineup that beat Maccabi 2-0 in Germany two weeks ago and found itself a goal down in the 14th minute after Anderson Bamba made a crucial error, slipping and allowing the deadly Zahavi to slot in the opener.
Maccabi was denied a penalty two minutes later when Constant Djakpa clearly handled the ball in the box. But it wouldn’t be long before the yellowand- blue doubled its lead and then netted a third goal to open a very promising lead by the break.
After hearing in the media that he is out of favor with coach Paulo Sousa, Itzhaki answered on the field with two sensational finishes, the first coming with a powerful header in the 30th minute thanks to an accurate Omri Ben- Harush cross.
The second arrived five minutes later, with Zahavi initially losing his footing, only for Itzhaki to pick up the ball and coolly chip ‘keeper Kevin Trapp to give the hosts an astonishing 3-0 lead after 35 minutes.
Frankfurt was intent on dominating the possession in the second half and Maccabi would soon pay the price for its lackadaisical approach.
The hosts fell asleep on defense and goalkeeper Juan Pablo was slow to react to Lakic’s header which gave the Germans a lifeline in the 63rd minute.
Just two minutes later Shiran Yeini was caught handling the ball in the box and Frankfurt was right back in the match after Meier converted the spot kick.
Maccabi had its chances to reestablish a two-goal cushion, with Zahavi and Maharan Radi both squandering promising openings.
Tel Aviv’s failure to find the back of the net resulted in a tense finish at Bloomfield, with the 13,000 fans on hand breathing a huge sigh of relief when Vaclav Kadlec and Joselu failed to place their open shots on target.
Four minutes into stoppage time, who if not Zahavi clinched Maccabi’s win, scoring from the spot with the final kick of the match after a Bamba handball to put Maccabi in pole position to qualify for the round of 32.