Beitar Jerusalem midfielder Omer Atzili.
(photo credit: ERAN LUF)
Beitar Jerusalem aims to avoid a shock exit in the Europa League first qualifying round when it hosts Sloboda Tuzla of Bosnia on Thursday, while Maccabi Tel Aviv should have little trouble securing its progress.
Beitar could only manage a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Bosnia last week. TV replays showed that Beitar’s Dan Einbinder scored in the 53rd minute, but Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg and his crew failed to spot that his shot from 20 meters out crossed the goalline after ricocheting against the crossbar, leaving Jerusalem with work to do at Teddy.
“There isn’t much we can do about the referee missing the goal, but the tie will be decided at Teddy and that was always our target,” said Beitar coach Ran Ben-Shimon.
Should Beitar advance it will face the winner of the tie between Banants of Armenia and Omonia Nicosia of Cyprus. Nicosia claimed a 1-0 win on the road in the first leg.
Maccabi Tel Aviv got life without Eran Zahavi off to a winning start in Netanya last Thursday, beating ND Gorica of Slovenia 3-0 in the first leg of the qualifiers.
Playing one day after Zahavi completed his $8-million move to Guangzhou R&F of the Chinese league, Maccabi dominated from the start and will bring what should be an unassailable lead into the second leg thanks to goals from Nosa Igiebor (13, 69) and Orlando Sa (45).
Maccabi has yet to bring in a replacement for Zahavi, with its attempts to sign Eliran Atar from Maccabi Haifa proving unsuccessful so far after the Greens demanded 2.2 million euro for his release.
“We certainly have an advantage after the last match but we are coming into this contest to perform well and not to be complacent,” said defender Eitan Tibi. “We have to make sure we show up and not think about the potential next match but concentrate and focus only on the game against Gorica. That way everything will be okay.”
Maccabi’s opponent in the second round will be either KS Teuta of Albania or Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan. Almaty won 1-0 in the first leg on the road.
State Cup holder Maccabi Haifa will enter the competition in the second qualifying round and awaits the winner of the tie between Nomme Kalju of Estonia and FK Trakai of Lithuania. Trakai registered a 2-1 victory at home in the first leg.
Defender Taleb Tawatha completed his move from Haifa to Eintracht Frankfurt of the German Bundesliga for a transfer fee of 1.5