Greens look to seal the deal in Bosnia

Mac Haifa takes 5-1 advantage into second leg vs Borac; roster changes on horizon?

July 20, 2011 05:16
2 minute read.
Maccabi Haifa striker Vladimir Dvalishvili

Maccabi Haifa 311. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

With its progress to the Champions League third qualifying round all but clinched, Maccabi Haifa is focused on strengthening its squad to boost its chances of reaching the group stage of European soccer’s most prestigious competition for the second time in three years.

Haifa visits Bosnian champion FK Borac Banja Luka in the return leg of the second qualifying round on Wednesday night and will be expecting to encounter little trouble on its way to the next round after last week’s 5-1 first-leg victory at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.

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The Bosnians took a stunning lead in the 24th minute of the first leg through Boris Raspudic, but a Wiyam Amashe hat-trick and two more goals by Dela Yampolsky and Eyal Golasa gave Haifa fans plenty of reasons for optimism in the team’s first competitive match of 2011/12.

However, Haifa coach Elisha Levy is determined to improve his squad with at least one more striker in the coming weeks, with South African Katlego Mphela the latest name to be linked with the Greens.

Haifa, which is set to face NK Maribor in the third qualifying round after the Slovenians completed an aggregate victory over Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange on Tuesday, will struggle to sign a player in time for next week’s third qualifying round first leg, but Levy will be hoping to have a new forward at his disposal for the playoff round, should it overcome Maribor.

“It isn’t easy in today’s market to find players that can upgrade us as a team,” Levy said. “Hopefully we will eventually find the right players.”

Should Haifa find the striker it is looking for, he will likely come in place of Georgian Vladimir Dvalishvili, who is set to start once more on Wednesday and will be aiming to convince his coaches that he deserves to remain on the squad.

Despite the significant lead from the first leg, Levy is expected to start with his strongest lineup on Wednesday, minus captain Yaniv Katan, who remained in Israel to treat his ailing back.

“I wouldn’t describe this as a meaningless match,” Levy said. “It is true that we recorded a very good result in the first leg, but we must make sure we are ready for the return leg and complete the job. I will start with the best lineup available. There is a sense that this tie is done and dusted, but I think that we’ve still got some work to do.”

One of Haifa’s main concerns will be to make sure it doesn’t lose any players to suspensions ahead of the third qualifying round, with Yampolsky, Gustavo Boccoli and Jurica Buljat all one yellow card away from a one-match suspension.

Yampolsky and Boccoli are expected to begin the match on the bench for precautionary reasons, while Buljat is likely to start in the center of defense nevertheless.

“We are not thinking of Maribor just yet,” Levy said. “We need to enter this match with high confidence, play good soccer and win. After we do that we can start preparing for the Slovenians.”

On TV: FK Borac Banja Luka vs Maccabi Haifa (live on Channel 10 at 9:45 p.m.)

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