Bnei Yehuda came back from two goals down to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-3 at
Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday night, clinching a place in the Europa League
for next season.
Maccabi seemed to be cruising when Moussa Konate doubled
the yellow-and-blue’s lead with a 26th-minute header after Dor Micha tucked in
the opener on six minutes.
However, Nenad Marinkovic gave Bnei Yehuda a
lifeline with an accurate shot from the edge of the area just two minutes later
and the hosts completed a memorable comeback in the second half.
splendid left-footed effort from the edge of the box by Amir Agajev tied the
score in the 71st minute and Pedro Galvan scored arguably the easiest goal of
his career eight minutes later after Maccabi ’keeper Guy Haimov spilled an
Agajev shot right into the path of the Argentinian.
Bnei Yehuda clinched
the win two minutes from time through a Pini Balili goal, with Dor Jan’s
stoppage-time strike on his debut of no consolation for Maccabi, which will not
play in Europe next season after a desperately poor campaign.
A win for
Bnei Yehuda at Ashdod SC on Saturday will ensure it ends the season in second
place, but even should it lose it will not finish any lower than
“If we end the season in second that will be like we won the
championship,” Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis said. “We were on the ropes, but
the players deserve all the credit for coming back and playing superbly in the
“I didn’t believe we could have such a season. We struggled
to bring in players because of financial problems and this is an amazing
Wednesday’s defeat was Maccabi’s 14th of the campaign, equal to
its worst ever total.
“This is very disappointing,” said coach Nir
Levine, who will soon make way for a new boss.
“This match epitomizes our
entire season. There is no excuse for losing a two-goal lead.”
Haifa remained in the hunt for a Europa League berth with a 1-0 win at champion
Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday.
Alon Turgeman scored the only goal of
the match with a cool 11th-minute finish.
Haifa hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv on
Saturday, with the winner to end the season at least in third place and secure
European qualification ahead of next Tuesday’s State Cup final showdown between
the sides from which the winner will also play in the Europa League.
draw between the teams on Saturday will open the door for Maccabi Netanya to
book a place in continental competition.
“It was very important for us to
win this match,” said Haifa coach Elisha Levy. “We now face two cup finals and
we will make sure we are as ready as possible for these matches.”