Israeli soccer’s frustrating summer continued to get worse on Thursday, when Ironi Kiryat Shmona was knocked out in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
Kiryat Shmona suffered a 2-1 defeat to Dinamo Moscow in the second leg in Nicosia, Cyprus, where it was forced to host the match due to the security situation, losing 3-2 on aggregate to the Russia powerhouse.
Kiryat Shmona recorded a surprise 1-1 draw in the first leg in Russia last week and got the return leg off to a perfect start, taking the lead in the 10th minute through Roei Kehat’s header.
However, the wealthy Russian club, which signed France midfielder Mathieu Valbuena for a fee in the region of seven million euros earlier this week – more than Kiryat Shmona’s entire budget for the upcoming season – turned the tie on its head within nine minutes.
Kevin Kuryani equalized from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute after a Rodgers Kola handball in the box and Aleksei Ionov made the most of a poor defensive play by Kassio to give Dinamo a lead it comfortably maintained until the final whistle.
“We are very disappointed,” said Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bachar. “We were equal to a top team.”
Following Kiryat Shmona’s defeat, Maccabi Tel Aviv remains Israel’s lone representative in European competitions. Maccabi was knocked out in the third qualifying round of the Champions League by NK Maribor on Tuesday, but will enter the Europa League in the playoffs for a place in the group stage, with the draw to be held on Friday.
The early Europa League exits by Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Beersheba and Kiryat Shmona, and Maccabi’s Champions League disappointment, combine for the worst showing by Israeli clubs in continental competitions since the 2008/09 season.
Unlike both Tel Aviv clubs and Beersheba, Kiryat Shmona entered its tie as a firm underdog and gave a superior opponent a real run for its money.
Kiryat Shmona was in the driving seat after Oded Elkayam’s excellent cross was headed in by Kehat.
However, with so much talent in its lineup it was only a matter of time until Dinamo broke through and two goals in quick succession by Kuryani and Ionov left Kiryat Shmona requiring two goals to go through.
The hosts thought they scored one of those goals three minutes into the second half when Vova Broun’s header seemed to have crossed the line. However, referee Richard Liesveld thought otherwise and Kiryat Shmona dropped to a dejecting defeat despite its impressive display.
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