Maccabi Tel Aviv secured its progress to the Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday night, but was made to work harder than expected before clinching a 3-0 aggregate victory over Santa Coloma of Andorra with a 2-0 win in the second leg in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The yellow-and-blue was never really in danger of being knocked out after claiming a 1-0 victory on the road in the first leg last week.
However, it was still hoping to register a better performance on Tuesday and book its place in the next round in more convincing fashion, with a much tougher opponent to already await the yellowand- blue next week.
Maccabi, which was knocked out by FC Basel in the third qualifying round last season, will have to wait until Wednesday to see who it will face next.
The first leg between NK Maribor of Slovenia and HSK Zrinjski of Bosnia ended in a 0-0 draw, with the return leg to be played in Slovenia on Wednesday. The first leg of the third qualifying round will already be played next week on July 29-30, with the two-time defending Israeli champion scheduled to host the second leg a week later Maccabi was in complete control from the start of the match on Tuesday, which was moved to Cyprus due to the security situation in Israel.
However, it failed to find the back of the net until the second half, with Rade Prica, who scored the winner in Andorra last week, being the main culprit.
The opener finally arrived courtesy of an Eran Zahavi penalty in the 62nd minute following Albert Mercadé’s handball, with the Maccabi players celebrating with an Israel flag.
The only real blemish for Maccabi on Tuesday was the red card picked up by Barak Badash, who was sent off in the 77th minute after throwing a punch towards a Santa Coloma player.
However, the Andorrans also found themselves down to 10 men two minutes later after Mercadé picked up a second yellow card, with Tal Ben-Haim completing the scoring in the 90th minute.
“It is difficult to play well at this stage of the season,” said Maccabi coach Oscar Garcia, who will be hoping the club can warp up the signings of Nigerian midfielder Nosa Igiebor and Israel national team striker Eden Ben-Basat in time for next week’s match.
“It is difficult to play against a team with 11 players behind the ball. It is even more difficult if you don’t score the chances you have. Maccabi has only played once in the Champions League group stage and it will be a big achievement for us to reach it again. We need to go game by game and be ready for the next game.”Coach Shirazi dies at the age of 43
Former Bnei Yehuda and Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Nitzan Shirazi passed away at the age of 43 on Tuesday after losing his battle with cancer. Shirazi underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor at the start of September 2012, shortly after he left his post at Hapoel. He continued to fight the disease for almost two years before ultimately succumbing to it on Tuesday. Shirazi is survived by a wife and three children.