Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Dor Micha (left) and his teammates did their best, but Martin Rolle and Asteras held on to advance to the Europa League group stage on away goals..
(photo credit: MACCABI TEL AVIV WEBSITE)
The remarkable rise of Hapoel Beersheba reached its latest highlight on Friday when the Israeli champion was drawn to open the Europa League group stage at one of the continent’s biggest and most famous stadiums, visiting Inter Milan at San Siro.
Beersheba was placed in Group K together with Inter, Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic and Southampton of the English Premier League.
Beersheba was handed a berth in the Europa League group stage after suffering a 5-4 aggregate defeat to Celtic in the Champions League playoffs.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was drawn in Group D in Nyon, Switzerland together with Zenit Saint Petersburg of Russia, AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands and Dundalk of Ireland.
Beersheba had won just two European ties in its history until this season, but defeated Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova in the second qualifying round and stunned Greek champion Olympiacos in the next round.
It then registered an impressive 2-0 win over Celtic in the second leg of the playoffs, coming within one goal of overturning the 5-2 defeat from the first leg.
“Any draw at this stage of the competition would be difficult,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “We worked hard to reach this stage and I’m sure every Beersheba fan is set for a true footballing experience."
“We are proud and happy to face teams of this quality and we will do everything to ensure we are ready for them.”
The group stage will begin on September 15 and run until December 8.
Beersheba hosts Southampton and Sparta after facing Inter and then visits the Czech side before welcoming the Italians to Turner Stadium.
Beersheba ends the group stage at Southampton.
Both Beersheba and Maccabi are guaranteed 5.4 million euro from UEFA prize money alone, with additional sums to enter their bank accounts via TV rights and ticket sales.
Maccabi opens with a home game against Zenit before visiting Dundalk and Alkmaar. The Dutch side will then travel to Israel before Maccabi goes to Zenit and caps the campaign at home against Dundalk.
Maccabi secured its place in the group stage last Thursday by becoming the first Israeli team ever to win a penalty shootout in European competition.
The tie with Hajduk Split went to extra time after the Croats claimed a 2-1 victory in regulation, the same score-line by which Maccabi won the first leg in Israel. Marko Cosic (40, 59) netted a brace for Hajduk, sandwiching Ezequiel Scarione’s (52) equalizer.
Neither team scored in the additional 30 minutes and penalties were required to decide the tie.
At one stage, the teams missed four consecutive spot kicks and after five penalties each the score was tied at 3-3.
Cosic would miss Hajduk’s next attempt and Avi Rikan sent Maccabi through to the group stage with a clinical finish.
Israeli clubs had taken part in a shootout on only four previous occasions, losing each time.