Mac Haifa dejected after being knocked out in penalties

Champions League Soccer: Haifa had numerous chances to secure its progress in Belgium, but it could only score once against the mediocre Genk.

August 25, 2011 07:33
2 minute read.

MACCABI HAIFA’S Eyal Golasa311. (photo credit: Adi Avishai)

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.

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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.

“We can only blame ourselves for being knocked out,” said a red-eyed Yaniv Katan, who was hoping to play with Haifa in the Champions League for the third time.

“I think that we are the better team. We could have decided the tie in Ramat Gan, but we failed to do so. We are massively disappointed.”

Haifa will still play in continental competition deep into the winter as the losers in the playoffs are granted a place in the Europa League group stage.

However, coach Elisha Levy knows that Europa League soccer is scant consolation for falling tantalizingly short of a place in European soccer’s most prestigious competition.

“The fate of the tie was in our hands until the very end,” Levy said. “It is a shame we weren’t cool enough to clinch the win in penalties. The players gave their all and we are disappointed.

“I think we lost the tie in Ramat Gan. We should have brought a bigger lead to Belgium. The players did everything they could, but we now have to put all the sadness aside and focus on what we have left.”

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