Ironi Kiryat Shmona coach Gili Landau admitted that his team faces its moment of
truth on Tuesday when it hosts MSK Zilina in the return leg of the Champions
League second qualifying round at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa, looking to
overturn a 1-0 deficit from last week.
Kiryat Shmona had it chances in
the first leg in Slovakia, but faces a tricky second leg after Jozef Piacek gave
Zilina the win with an 82nd-minute header.
With its home stadium not
suitable to host European matches, Kiryat Shmona is forced to play Zilina in
Haifa, but Landau believes his side can complete the job and avoid having its
continental campaign already end in July.
“Clearly the pressure is on
us,” Landau said. “But I trust my players and I think this can be their finest
“It won’t be easy, but we will be focused and will need to play
patiently and maturely to achieve our goal.”
Landau lamented Kiryat
Shmona’s missed opportunities in Slovakia.
“We played nicely in the first
leg, but we weren’t effective,” he noted. “We will have to do far better in that
department on Tuesday.
“In Zilina our target was to control the pace of
the match and we can’t afford to be too adventurous at home either.
will want to attack but we must do so in a clever manner.”
will also be looking to prove all its local doubters wrong after there were many
question marks raised regarding its chances of success in Europe following its
stunning championship triumph last season.
“Since I took over the reins I
have seen passion and desire from the players,” said Landau, who replaced Ran
Ben-Shimon this summer.
“The squad wants to build on what it achieved
last season and show that it wasn’t just a miracle.”
The first leg of the
Champions League third qualifying round will already be played next week, with
Kiryat Shmona already knowing who its opponent will likely be should it overcome
Kiryat Shmona was drawn on Friday to face the winner of the tie
between Azerbaijan’s Neftci PFK and Georgia’s FC Zestafoni.
a 3-0 lead into the second leg on Tuesday.
However, Kiryat Shmona will
not be thinking that far just yet, with its entire continental campaign on the
line on Tuesday.
A berth in the third qualifying round will at least
guarantee Kiryat Shmona a place in the Europa League playoffs, while reaching
the Champions League playoffs with a victory over Zilina followed by another
triumph will book the northerners – at the very least – a place in the Europa
League group stage.
“We couldn’t score in the first leg but we played
well,” said midfielder David Solari.
“That gives us belief that we can
record the result we need to progress at home.”