Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts Cluj for crucial 2nd leg

Beersheba looks good in Europa qualifying, Mac Haifa’s campaign in peril • More judo medals for Israelis

By JOSHUA HALICKMAN
July 30, 2019 00:12
4 minute read.
Israeli flags will be waving proudly when Maccabi Haifa hosts Strasbourg in Europa League qualifying

After controversy in France, Israeli flags will be waving proudly when Maccabi Haifa hosts Strasbourg in Europa League qualifying.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Champions League campaign is hanging in the balance as it welcomes Cluj for the second leg of second-round qualifying at the Netanya Stadium on Tuesday night. The yellow-and-blue fell to the Romanian league champion 1-0 last week in first leg on a first-half goal by Billel Omrani.

Should Maccabi erase Cluj’s advantage and advance to the third round, Scottish giant Celtic will most probably be waiting for it after Celtic defeated Nomme Kalju from Estonia 5-0 in first-leg play. Should Maccabi not get by Cluj, it will enter the third round of Europa League qualifying and likely face Sudova from Lithuania, which dropped Tre Penne of San Marino 5-0 in their first-leg clash.

Maccabi head coach Vladimir Ivic was cautiously optimistic ahead of Tuesday’s showdown.

“I am satisfied with the play in our first official game this season, but not with the result. We showed that we can get a good result in the second game and move into the next stage of the Champions League. I don’t think that there are any favorites and I believe in my players that we can do it.”

Meanwhile, Hapoel Beersheba defeated Kairat Almaty 2-0 in the first leg of their second-round Europa League qualifying tie at Turner Stadium in Israel’s southern capital.

Ramzi Safuri opened the scoring in the ninth minute on a penalty caused by a hand ball in the box to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. Eden Shamir found the back of the net on a second-half header thanks to a brilliant cross by Ben Bitton to give Beersheba the victory.

A lengthy trip to Kazakhstan is now on tap for Barak Bachar’s squad for the return leg on Thursday night.

“There’s no question that this was a good result,” said Bachar. “Keeping a clean sheet against a quality opponent is terrific and we were a bit lucky that we didn’t give up a goal. However, on the other side we could have scored even more. Now we have to seal the deal in Kazakhstan, which won’t be simple. If their disallowed goal would have counted, everything would have been different.”

Also, Maccabi Haifa fell in France to Strasbourg 3-1 in their first-leg second-round Europa League matchup. After controversy led up to the start of the game, with the local French authorities not allowing the display of Israeli flags, Marko Balbul’s side took a 1-0 first half lead but then gave up three unanswered goals.

The Greens held a 1-0 lead after a 39th-minute goal by Maxim Plakushchenko thanks to a Nikita Rukavysta assist however, just a few minutes later everything went south for the northerners.

Defender Ayad Habshi was shown red for pulling down Da Costa Joia in the box, which led to a penalty goal by Ludovic Ajorque just before halftime, which was followed up by a quick second goal just two minutes into the second half by Adrien Thomasson.

Jonas Martin then added the final strike in the 62nd minute to send his team into Israel with the advantage ahead of the second leg on Thursday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium.

“Up until Habshi was dismissed we were playing well,” said a disappointed Balbul. “Once we lost a player we had a tough time and they pressed us. Even with 10 men I was expecting to battle and create some chances and we barely were able to do that. However, I’m proud of the guys and we will get back at it at with our home crowd on Thursday.”

Domestic soccer action was also on tap as the Toto Cup competition was in full swing.

Hapoel Ra’anana defeated Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-1 on a winner by Ido Levy, Beitar Jerusalem needed an injury-time goal by Gaetan Varenne to drop pesky Ness Ziona drew 2-1, Maccabi Netanya beat Hapoel Haifa 2-0 and Kiryat Shmona slipped by Hapoel Hadera 2-1.

In other Israeli sports news, the Israel men’s 4x200 swim team of Tomer Frankel, Gal Cohen Groumi, Daniel Namir and Denis Loktev met the criteria for the Olympics, as did Miron Heruti in 50 meter freestyle.

On the judo mat, Tohar Butbol won his first-ever goal medal in the -73kg category at the Zagreb Grand Prix, giving the blue-and-white yet another medal hope going into 2020, while Peter Paltchik (-100kg) won a bronze.

And finally. England defeated Israel 10-7 in the final of the Women’s European Lacrosse Championship held in Israel.

By finishing second, the blue-and-white automatically qualified for the World Championships in 2021, which will be held in the USA.

Israel Lacrosse Association CEO David Lasday was happy with the tournament and the blue-and-white’s result.

“They gave it their all,” he said. “We’ve built something special and this is not the end, but just the beginning.”

Ayelet Federation President Arik Kaplan also weighed in with his thoughts.

“The Israel National Team proved that lacrosse is alive and well in the State of Israel,” he said. “This is an amazing accomplishment, a team that beat some of the greats.”


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