JELLE VOSSEN of KRC Genk 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Maccabi Haifa players were almost inconsolable after missing out on a place in the Champions League group stage in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday night, losing 4-1 in penalties to KRC Genk after extra-time ended 3-3 on aggregate.
After failing to make the most of its dominance in the first leg at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, winning just 2-1, Haifa had numerous chances to secure its progress in Belgium, but it could only score once against the mediocre Genk, which took advantage of Maccabi's fragile defense to force extra-time with a 2-1 win.
Jelle Vossen scored the opener for Genk in the 35th minute, with Eyal Golasa equalizing two minutes later with a superb effort, only for Thomas Buffel to put the Belgians back in front four minutes before the break.
Haifa came centimeters away from scoring a second away goal in the 104th minute, which would have all but clinched its place in the group stage, with Weeam Amasha's shot taking a deflection and smashing against the post.
In the 109th minute, referee Howard Webb inexplicably sent-off Haifa's Itzik Cohen, showing the defender a second yellow card for what he deemed to be a foul from behind on substitute Marvin Ogunjimi.
Haifa spent the remainder of the match holding out for a penalty shootout, but Vladimir Dvalishvili and Golasa failed to convert Maccabi's first two kicks, while the Belgians converted all four of their penalties, with Daniel Pudil clinching the win.
As expected, Genk looked to pressure Haifa from the start and the visitors were fortunate not to concede an early goal.
Nir Davidovich maintained the Greens clean sheet with two brave saves
in the 11th minute, the second of which from a Kennedy Nwanganga close
range effort being especially impressive.
Six minutes later, Eyal
Meshumar slid in to deny Elyaniv Barda an almost certain goal, with
Haifa barely connecting two passes in the first 20 minutes of the match.
However, the Greens eventually worked their way into the match, only to concede a needless opener in the 35th minute.
Itzik Cohen couldn’t clear Barda’s lobbed pass and Vossen was on hand to give Genk the lead.
Less than two minutes later, however, Haifa was back on level terms.
neat team move ended with Idan Vered spotting Golasa on the edge of the
area and the midfielder sent a splendid shot into the top left corner
of Laszlo Koteles’s goal.
But it took the hosts just four more minutes to move ahead on the night and tie the encounter on aggregate.
Gustavo Boccoli was tumbled over just inside the box, but referee Howard
Webb let play continue and Buffel fired beyond Davidovich.
Both teams were far more cautious at the start of the second half, knowing that the next goal will likely be decisive.
Haifa coach Elisha Levy introduced Dela Yampolsky at the break in the
hope of threatening Genk’s goal on a more regular basis and the
midfielder squandered a golden opportunity in the 72nd minute, sending a
poor leftfooted shot straight at the ‘keeper.
Genk also had its chances, with Davidovich doing well to deny Marvin Ogunjimi in the 77th minute.
Six minutes later, Weeam Amasha finally reached his first scoring
opportunity of the night, but his leftfooted effort rolled just wide of
goal and the tie entered extra-time with the aggregate score tied at