(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised into the playoffs of the Europa
League on Thursday night, but Bnei Yehuda couldn’t make it three out of three
for the Israeli clubs, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Helsingborgs IF after falling
to a 3-0 defeat in the return leg in Sweden.
Bnei Yehuda took a 1-0 lead
into the second leg after an impressive win over the Swedish league leader at
Bloomfield Stadium last week.
However, Yossi Abuksis’s team conceded less
then three minutes into Thursday’s match and was on its back foot after that.
Two Helsingborgs goals and a red card for Bnei Yehuda’s Oz Raly in the space of
13 second-half minutes ended the Israelis’ hopes, leaving Abuksis’s men to focus
on their Premier League campaign.
Hapoel needed just 35 seconds on
Thursday to add to its 4-0 lead over Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz from the first leg
at home last week.
However, it ended the night with one of the more
embarrassing defeats in its history, losing 2-1.
Omer Damari scored the
early opener, but Reto Zanni (78) and Rafinha (81) gave Vaduz a win that might
not have had a significant effect on the aggregate score, but was humiliating
for the Reds and Israeli soccer as a whole.
Maccabi will also be in
Friday’s playoffs draw in Nyon, Switzerland after crushing FK Zeljeznicar 6-0 at
Bloomfield to complete an 8-0 aggregate victory.
Maccabi can expect to
face a tougher opponent than its arch-rival in the playoffs, as it will not be
seeded in the draw.
An aggregate win in the playoffs, which will be
played on August 18 and 25, will book Tel Aviv’s big guns a place in the Europa
League group stage, guaranteeing them continental soccer at least until
Maccabi ended any lingering hopes Zeljeznicar may have had
of overturning its 2-0 first-leg defeat in the 18th minute, when Shiran Yeini’s
cross was turned in by Roberto Colautti.
Rafi Dahan doubled the lead with
a bullet from 20 meters out in the 38th minute, with Colautti scoring his fifth
goal in a week in first-half stoppage time, tucking the ball in from close
Eliran Atar, who came on as a substitute for Colautti at halftime,
piled the misery on the Bosnians with two more goals (54, 86), with Vernes
Selimovic netting an own goal (81) to complete a depressing night for the
In Sweden, Bnei Yehuda got off to the worst possible start,
losing its first-leg advantage after less than three minutes.
crossed the ball from the left and Mattias Lindstrom took advantage of Bnei
Yehuda’s terrible marking and headed in the opener from close range.
match remained tied until the 60th minute, when Helsingborgs went ahead on
aggregate thanks to a lucky deflection.
Adrian Gashi’s shot from outside
the area seemed to be harmless until it took a flick off Din Mori’s foot and
changed direction, leaving Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba with no
Despite trailing 2-0, Bnei Yehuda still only needed one goal to
advance on away goals, but Nenad Marinkovic squandered a golden opportunity in
the 67th minute, and it wasn’t long before Helsingborgs secured its
Raly was sent off after being shown his second yellow card in
the 69th minute and, four minutes later, Lindstrom headed in his second goal of
the night to end Bnei Yehuda’s continental dreams.