Hapoel Beersheba midfielder Isaac Cuenca walks away disappointed while Lugano players celebrate scoring their winner in the background in a 1-0 victory in Europa League action in Switzerland..
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Hapoel Beersheba’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League knockout rounds for a second straight year came to an end on Thursday night with a 1-0 loss to Lugano in Switzerland.
Beersheba’s defeat sent it to last place in Group G and its final group match against Viktoria Plzen at Turner Stadium in two weeks will be for nothing more than pride.
Plzen beat Steaua Bucharest 2-0 in the group’s other game on Thursday, joining the Romanians in the round-of-32.
Beersheba can have few complaints, with the two-time reigning Israeli champion struggling to create chances against Lugano despite knowing that it would likely have to win the game.
Carlinhos Junior scored the only goal of the match in the 50th minute, with Beersheba defender Hatem Abd Elhamed bungling his clearance.
Beersheba coach Barak Bachar had already made an attacking substitution five minutes earlier at the start of the second half, sending in striker Tomas Pekhart in place of midfielder John Ogu.
Bachar would also bring on Michael Ohana and Maor Melikson, but Beersheba never found its rhythm and dropped to yet another loss away from home.
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Beersheba’s road woes in Europe ultimately cost it dearly, with Hapoel picking up just a single point from its three group games on the continent. Beersheba had lost three straight road games in European competition before drawing 1-1 at Steaua three weeks ago, falling to Ludogorets in Bulgaria and Maribor in Slovenia in Champions League qualifying prior to losing 3-1 at Plzen.
Hapoel’s record away from home since it made its return to European play in 2014 after 17 years out of continental competitions is nothing short of dismal. Beersheba has won only two of 15 roads games in the Champions League and Europa League over the past four seasons, beating Honved in Hungary in the Champions League qualifiers earlier this season and stunning Inter Milan at San Siro in the Europa groups last season.
That win in San Siro eventually helped Beersheba reach the round-of-32 where it was knocked out by Besiktas of Turkey.
Maccabi Tel Aviv was also in Europa League action later Thursday when it hosted Slavia Prague in Netanya. The yellow-and-blue had nothing to play for, already losing any chance of progressing after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Astana in Netanya in its previous match.
Maccabi entered the game bottom of Group A with a single point and without a single goal to its name from the first four matches. Villarreal clinched first place in the group earlier Thursday, defeating Astana 3-2 on the road.
Tel Aviv began a stretch of four games over 10 days on Thursday, with its next contest coming at Premier League leader Hapoel Haifa on Sunday. Maccabi then faces Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the Toto Cup semifinals on Wednesday before hosting Ashdod SC in league action three days later.
Elsewhere Thursday, Israel striker Munas Dabbur continued his prolific form for Austrian club Salzburg, scoring the opener in the 3-0 win over Portuguese side Vitoria in Europa League action. Salzburg secured first place in Group I with the victory. Dabbur, who joined Salzburg from Swiss club Grasshoppers after making his breakthrough at Maccabi Tel Aviv, netted his third goal in five matches in the group stage, four days after taking his tally to 11 goals in 14 Austrian league matches with a brace in Sunday’s 5-0 win over Sturm Graz.
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