(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
With two matches still to play in the group stage, Maccabi Tel Aviv already lost any chance of advancing to the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday night, suffering a frustrating 1-0 defeat to Astana of Kazakhstan in Netanya.
After being humbled 4-0 in Kazakhstan two weeks ago, Maccabi was also playing for plenty of pride on Thursday.
It dominated proceedings and created numerous chances, especially in the first hour, but failed to find the back of the net once more. Maccabi remained the only team of the 64 playing in the group stage without a goal, sitting in last place in Group A with a single point and a combined goal difference of 0-6.
Villarreal leads the group with eight points after beating Slavia Prague 2-0 on Thursday, with Astana moving to seven points. Maccabi can still in theory finish tied on points with the Kazakhs, but even should that happen, Astana would remain in front of the yellowand- blue as it owns the headto- head tiebreaker.
Unlike its previous matches in the group stage, Maccabi created plenty of chances on Thursday. Vidar Orn Kjartansson and Eliran Atar were guilty of being wasteful in front of goal, with Maccabi attempting 23 shots in total, but only finding the target with five of them.
Astana had just six attempts, but it scored with its only shot on goal, with Patrick Twumasi finding the back of the net in the 57th minute after Atar lost the ball in his own half while trying to break forward.
“It was a must-win game and we lost,” said Maccabi’s disappointed coach Jordi Cruyff. “It is difficult to analyze because we created a lot of chances and played good football while we had energy in our legs. But we were missing freshness. We are demanding a lot from the players who are fit and the fact is that we only have the energy for a certain amount of minutes.”
Cruyff did at least draw some encouragement from his team’s display.
“I think today we had a lot of attempts and a lot of good chances, but we didn’t score.
They had one good chance and the ball was in the net,” he explained. “If you look at the result it is disappointing.
But I think that if you look at the performance and the players we will get back after the break, I think we have to be optimistic in terms of how the team will play.”
Hapoel Beersheba visited Steaua Bucharest in Group G action late Thursday night.
Beersheba entered the match tied on three points with both Lugano and Viktoria Plzen for second place, with Steaua leading the group with nine points.
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