Maccabi Tel Aviv claimed an impressive 3-1 win in Romania on Thursday night as they closed in on the play-off ties for next season’s Europa League.
Shota Arveladze’s side turned in a clinical performance at Pandurii Târgu Jiu’s Stadionul Municipal meaning, anything but a two-goal defeat in next week’s second leg in Tel Aviv will see them progress to the fourth and final qualifying round.
They got off to the perfect start when Tal Ben Haim II fired them ahead with just seven minutes on the clock. Ovidiu Herea drew the home side level on the half-hour mark.
Nigerian midfielder Nosa Igiebor put the Israelis back in front four minutes after the restart, before Dor Miha’s strike, 13 minutes from time, ensured Tel Aviv are in a commanding position ahead of the return leg.
Manager Shota Arveladze said: “I mentioned before the game that it’s the early stages for both teams and it’s never easy. But we scored the first goal and that opened the game up for us and it was a great goal. But then we slowed down and credit has to go to Pandurii for drawing even. However, we found an important second goal.
“It’s a big advantage to score three away goals but we will be ready for the next game in Tel Aviv and I look forward to the next challenge.”
Speaking about the tough travelling schedule his side have already had in the competition, he said: “Emotions are always good when you win and as a coach we have to see what we did well and what we didn’t. Every trip we’ve had rough time traveling, landing in Italy for Gorica, nine hours to Almaty and three hours from Craiova to get to this match. So we had a tough travel schedule but the guys have done well.”
Elsewhere, Beitar Jerusalem came away from Latvian side Jelgava with a 1-1 draw. Idan Vered opened the scoring for the visitors midway through the first half, though Vitalijs Smirnovs equalised 20 minutes from time to ensure the tie remains evenly balanced ahead of next week’s second leg.