Maccabi Tel Aviv was pushed out of Europe last night despite a 2-1 win over Dundalk, with midfielder Eyal Golasa being muscled off the ball by Dundalk’s Seán Gannon..
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to winning ways on Thursday night, but the 2-1 victory over Dundalk in Netanya couldn’t have been more bitter, with AZ Alkmaar’s 3-2 triumph over Zenit St. Petersburg meaning the yellow-andblue’s Europa League campaign ended in the group stage.
Maccabi knew it didn’t have its fate in its own hands, but was nevertheless hopeful that the previously perfect Zenit wouldn’t lose in the Netherlands and that it would beat its Irish opponent to leapfrog into second place.
Tel Aviv did its part, with Tal Ben- Haim’s penalty in the 21st minute being canceled out by Eli Dasa’s own goal six minutes later before Dor Micha scored what proved to be the winner seven minutes from the break.
However, with AZ taking an early lead against Zenit and maintaining it until the final whistle, Maccabi’s win was not enough and the yellow-and-blue was left to rue some of its previous results in the group.
Maccabi has plenty of missed opportunities to look back on, suffering a 4-3 loss to Zenit in their opener in Netanya despite leading 3-0 until the 77th minute while also losing 1-0 to Dundalk in Ireland.
“The pity is that we were knocked out in the last seconds,” said Maccabi coach Shota Arveladze. “But I believe we had a good run and we represented the country with honor. At the end of the day, I can go back and think what might have been, especially in the first game.
That one point we didn’t get against Zenit would have been enough.
“We have been through a hard time, but today we saw a team that was doing its best. Unfortunately we are out.”
Maccabi’s hopes of progressing suffered a crushing blow after just seven minutes, and it had nothing to do with anything happening on the field in Netanya.
AZ got off to a perfect start in the Netherlands, with captain Ben Rienstra netting an early opener.
Maccabi was nevertheless intent on winning its match and finally found the back of the net in the 21st minute. Ben- Haim scored from the penalty spot after Haris Medunjanin was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Gary Rogers.
Maccabi failed to find the back of the net in seven of its previous eight matches in Premier League and Europa League action, but shortly after it ended its drought it conceded a needless equalizer.
A defensive lapse in the 27th minute meant Chris Shields was afforded far too much space and time and his cross was turned in by Maccabi defender Eli Dasa.
Tel Aviv moved back in front seven minutes from the break, with ‘keeper Rogers allowing Dor Micha’s shot to pass between his hands.
Maccabi’s celebrations didn’t last long though, with Ridgeciano Haps doubling AZ’s lead in the 43rd minute. A 58th-minute goal by Giuliano brought Zenit back into the game, only for Muamer Tankovic to reestablish a two-lead cushion 10 minutes later.
Stijn Wuytens’ own goal with 10 minutes to play in the Netherlands ensured a tense finish to the night, but Zenit’s equalizer never arrived, bringing Maccabi’s campaign to an end.
Later Thursday, Hapoel Beersheba faced Southampton in a match which ended after press time. Beersheba needed a win or a draw with goals to advance.