The Jerusalem Post ePaper

Mac TA, Mac Haifa in Conference League knockout


Maccabi Tel Aviv defeated Gent 3-1 thanks to an Eran Zahavi brace to clinch first place in its UEFA Conference League group and advance to the round-of-16.

Maccabi Haifa also punched its ticket to the Conference League with a 2-1 win over Panathinaikos to finish in third place in its Europa League group.

For Tel Aviv, Gaby Kanichowsky opened the scoring early on when he pounced on a Dor Peretz rebound to give the yellow-andblue a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.

Zahavi scored his first of the game off a Kanichowsky ball to give Robbie Keane’s squad a 2-0 lead by halftime. However, Julien De Sant pulled a goal back for the Belgians before Zahavi scored his second of the game off a Dan Bitton through-ball to take the win.

The victory handed the yellow-and-blue first place in Group B as it leapfrogged the Belgian side into the top spot and avoided having to play in the Knockout Round Playoff.

“The players are very happy and this was a great achievement for the club and the players,” Keane said. “I was very pleased with the performance. This is how I like to play – attack and take chances. I am very happy that we won the game. We stuck to the plan and executed it very well.”

Zahavi, who is tied atop the goal scoring leaders list in the Conference League with five markers, reflected on the game.

“We played an excellent game, were compact, moved the ball with confidence and pressed really well. I am really proud of our team today. We made history as this is the first time Maccabi finished top of a group stage as all the guys deserve credit, from the coaching staff to the kit-men and the last club employee. We dedicate this victory to the entire Israeli nation as well as the IDF soldiers fighting for us in Gaza right now. I just hope that all the hostages return and we would like to strengthen them from here.”

As for Maccabi Haifa, Dean David gave the Greens a 1-0 lead over Panathinaikos as Tjaron Chery doubled the advantage in the second half.

Fotis Ioannidis pulled a goal back for the Greek hosts, but it was too little, too late as Messay Dego’s team took the win.

Haifa, which featured in Group F, ended its Europa League campaign in third place behind Villarreal and Rennes but in front of Panathinaikos, which allowed it to advance to the Conference League Knockout Round, where it will look to punch its ticket to the round-of-16.

“Wow, what incredible game,” Dego said following the victory. “On the holiday of Hanukkah, the Maccabees are obligated to win and we won one of the biggest games in the organization’s history. This was a heroic match and everyone gave their heart. I told the guys before the game that Maccabi Haifa had never won a European group stage game on the road and that it was time to make history – and that’s exactly what we did.”

Ram Gershon added, “This was so exciting. We know what state our country is in and in the name of all of the players we want to dedicate this win to the entire nation, not just the Maccabi Haifa fans. This win is for all of you, for the soldiers, for the families of the hostages and I hope that we were able to make a lot of people back in Israel happy.”





Jerusalem Post