Hapoel Beersheba's Dan Einbinder prays for help at Turner Stadium, with the Israeli champion losing 2-0 to Steaua Bucharest in Europa League action.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv suffered one of its most humiliating defeats ever in European action on Thursday, while Hapoel Beersheba’s hopes of progressing to the Europa League knockout rounds were also handed a significant blow.
Maccabi was crushed 4-0 by Astana in Kazakhstan, while Beersheba dropped to a 2-0 defeat to Steaua Bucharest at Turner Stadium.
“I think that this was probably our worst performance in the last 5-6 years,” said Maccabi coach Jordi Cruyff, who admitted he just wanted the match to end after falling 4-0 behind just seven minutes into the second half. “This was not the Maccabi that we know and we can’t wait until the next match against Astana in Israel to show who we are.”
Maccabi’s loss to Astana equaled its biggest margin of defeat in Europe since it began playing in continental competitions in 1992.
However, three of the four previous occurrences in which it was beaten by four goals came against the likes of Bayern Munich and Chelsea, with Besiktas of Turkey registering the other.
Astana has invested heavily in recent seasons in the hope of making its mark in Europe, but only made its continental debut four years ago.
At the halfway mark of group action, Maccabi has just one point from three matches, and is still searching for its first goal.
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Tel Aviv is nevertheless still in contention to finish in the top two and reach the round of 32, but only if it registers a significant improvement and wins its next two matches at home against Astana in two weeks and Slavia Prague three weeks later.
Astana was in control from the start, but had to wait until the 33rd minute to take the lead. Dor Peretz blocked Dmitri Shomko’s free kick with his hands and Patrick Twumasi stepped up to convert the penalty.
Twumasi doubled the lead three minutes from the break after losing his marker and the contest was as good as over two minutes into the second half, with Junior Kabananga surprising Maccabi goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic with his shot from the edge of the box. Kabananga piled the misery on the yellow-and-blue with another goal five minutes later and Maccabi could have well lost by a greater margin had Astana been more accurate.
Maccabi visits Beersheba in Premier League action on Monday and Cruyff has already turned his focus to the showdown between the two local title favorites.
“We have an important match on Monday and we are beginning to prepare for that already,” he said. “We will meet Astana in two weeks and I hope that we will show in our home that we can play and win. At home we are a different team and we expect to win. Everything went wrong for us today.”
Beersheba was aiming to make it five wins from five matches in European action at Turner this season, but two goals by Steaua substitute Harlem Gnohere complicated its situation in Group G.
The French striker needed less than 30 seconds after coming on to find the back of the net in the 70th minute and doubled Steaua’s advantage five minutes later. Isaac Cuenca got a goal back for Beersheba three minutes from time and the hosts were bitterly frustrated at the final whistle, feeling they deserved to be awarded a penalty in the 90th minute.
“We lost tonight, but I end the match with a good feeling because the players gave their all and didn’t deserve to lose,” said Beersheba coach Barak Bachar. “I’m really pleased by the attitude of the players and I feel I have gotten my team back. We always believe in our chances, but at the moment our focus is on Monday’s league match.”
Steaua comfortably leads Group G with a perfect nine points, while Beersheba is tied on three points with both Lugano and Viktoria Plzen.
Beersheba’s next two matches are on the road, in Bucharest in two weeks and at Lugano three weeks later, before ending its group games at home against Plzen.
The top two teams will advance to the next round.
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