On to another qualifying round for Mac TA

Yellow-and-blue completes 4-1 victory over Gyori to set up daunting encounter with Basel.

July 24, 2013 04:17
2 minute read.
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Tal Ben-Haim

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Tal Ben-Haim 370. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Maccabi Tel Aviv can truly begin its preparations for next week’s Champions League third qualifying round first-leg match against FC Basel after officially securing its progress on Tuesday night, beating Hungarian champion Gyori ETO 2-1 at Bloomfield Stadium to complete a 4-1 aggregate conquest.

Maccabi all but booked its place in the third qualifying round with last week’s 2-0 firstleg victory in Hungary. However, coach Paulo Sousa took no chances on Tuesday, starting with his strongest available lineup, and he was rewarded with another dominant performance.

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The only change from last week’s starting 11 was forced on Sousa, with Tal Ben-Haim replacing the injured Rade Prica.

Ben-Haim made the most of his opportunity, scoring Maccabi’s opener with a stylish finish in the 25th minute to end any lingering hope Gyori may have had of recording a comeback.

Eran Zahavi put the icing on the cake with his 79th-minute header, capping another impressive win for the yellow-and-blue.

“I’m happy with the way we performed in both games,” said Sousa. “My players are working hard and they deserve this win.”

Maccabi was handed what was probably the toughest draw possible in the third qualifying round on Friday when it was paired with Swiss champion Basel.

Basel has dominated the Swiss league in recent years, winning four straight championships, and has risen to prominence in Europe over the past few seasons.

Basel, currently coached by Murat Yakin, defeated Manchester United 2-1 to progress to the last 16 of the Champions League at the expense of the English giant in 2011/2012 before reaching the Europa League semifinals last season.

The first leg will take place in Switzerland on July 30/31, with the return leg to be played at Bloomfield the following week.

Despite the ominous prospect of facing Basel, Maccabi has already ensured itself at least four more matches in continental competition, with the winner in the third qualifying round to advance to a playoff for a Champions League group stage berth, while the loser will be handed a second chance in the Europa League playoffs.

Maccabi seized complete control right from the kickoff on Tuesday and never allowed Gyori to gain a foothold in the match.

Ben-Haim should have really given the hosts the lead in the 16th minute when he only had goalkeeper Lubos Kamenar to beat, but he more than made up for his miss nine minutes later.

Ben-Haim used his electric pace to latch onto Maharan Radi’s perfectly timed ball, controlling it with one touch and slotting in the opener with a second left-footed strike.

Despite ending the first half with 13 attempts at goal, five of them on target, Maccabi had to wait until 11 minutes from time to double its advantage.

Omri Altman terrorized his marker before lofting the ball towards the incoming Zahavi.

Leandro Martinez got a goal back for the visitors in the 86th minute, but that did nothing to dampen the celebrations at the final whistle as Maccabi completed the first step on the road to the group stage.

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