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Zahavi strikes as Maccabi Tel-Aviv make history

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC 1-0 FC Girondins de Bordeaux
Eran Zahavi converted a 74th-minute penalty as the Israeli champions extended their European campaign into the new year for the first time.

Eran Zahavi scored for Maccabi
Eran Zahavi scored for Maccabi ©AFP/Getty Images

Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC will play European football in the spring for the first time after sealing their place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with a 1-0 victory.

The Israeli champions went into the game knowing a point against eliminated FC Girondins de Bordeaux would confirm progress from Group F, but they were clearly unwilling to leave anything to chance. Paulo Sousa's side missed a host of chances, yet they were finally able to relax a little when Eran Zahavi converted a 74th-minute penalty, Matthieu Chalmé having caught Munas Dabbur with a high foot that also brought the defender a red card.

Amid driving rain, both sides could perhaps be forgiven the leaden start, though Bordeaux's experimental lineup eventually found a spring in their step as their young players sought to leave their mark. A more familiar name then came close to making a telling impression on 32 minutes, Diego Rolán springing the offside trap to meet a perfectly timed through ball, only for Juan Pablo to block at his feet.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv, hitherto content to soak up pressure, now had their wake-up call and immediately stepped up a gear. Barak Itzhaki was their driving force, heading one chance over and another wide before half-time. Soon after the restart, he went closer still, reacting quickest when Maharan Radi's free-kick was deflected but steering his effort just beyond a post.

By now, Maccabi were camped in the Bordeaux half, dominating possession if not creating many clear-cut opportunities. Until, that is, Chalmé's raised foot caught Dabbur in the face and the referee pointed to the spot. Zahavi duly converted as Maccabi sealed second spot in Group F and a place in Monday's draw.