Haifa looks to build on early momentum in Romania

Maccabi Haifa coach Arik Benado is optimistic his team will wrap up its progress to the Europa League group stage on Thursday night when it visits Astra of Romania in the second leg of the playoffs holding a 2-0 lead.

By
August 28, 2013 23:59
1 minute read.
HEN EZRA (right) will be looking to continue his good form for Maccabi Haifa.

HEN EZRA maccabi haifa 370. (photo credit: Uzi Gal)

Maccabi Haifa coach Arik Benado is optimistic his team will wrap up its progress to the Europa League group stage on Thursday night when it visits Astra of Romania in the second leg of the playoffs holding a 2-0 lead.

The Greens outplayed the Romanians in the first leg at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium last week and could have won by a far greater margin, which would have all but rendered the return leg as meaningless.

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However, wastefulness in front of goal meant that Haifa was forced to settle for a 2-0 win that gives Astra a fighting chance on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Haifa enters the second leg brimming with confidence regarding its chances of reaching the Europa group stage for the second time in three years.

Haifa has yet to concede a goal in continental competition this season, crushing Xazar Lankaran 10-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round and beating FK Ventspils 3-0 in the third round before defeating Astra 2-0 last week.

After winning its first four league games to go top of the Romanian league, Astra followed up the loss to Haifa with a home defeat to Petrolul Ploiesti in local play.

“Astra may not have played as well in its past two matches, but this is still a very good team,” said Benado on Wednesday.

“We will not sit back and settle for defending. We will play the same way we always do. The pitch is drenched so we probably won’t be seeing great soccer, but we will do our best to win.”

Benado is expected to implement the same lineup he used in the first leg, with veteran midfielder Gustavo Boccoli, who sat out Sunday’s 3-1 Premier League win over Ironi Kiryat Shmona, to return to the starting 11.

“We are not entering the match with a defensive mindset,” said forward Yaniv Katan, who will also be among the starters. “We are ready and will give our best to reach the group stage.”


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