Maccabi Haifa Vladimir Dvalishvili_311.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa will take a fragile 2-1 lead into the second leg of its Champions
League third qualifying round at NK Maribor next week thanks to an auspicious
win at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday night.
Haifa created little to
nothing throughout the match and was outplayed by the Slovenians for large
However, a questionable penalty, converted by Vladimir
Dvalishvili in the eighth minute, and Dela Yampolsky’s winner 20 minutes from
time, gave Haifa a win it didn’t deserve and a vital lead ahead of next
Wednesday’s return leg in Slovenia.
Nevertheless, Elisha Levy’s Greens
will surely not be as fortunate next week and will need to show a significant
improvement if they are to reach the playoff round, not to mention the group
stage of continental soccer’s most prestigious competition.
Haifa will at
least be boosted by the fact that both Gustavo Boccoli and Seidu Yahya will
return from suspension next week, with influential forward Yaniv Katan also
likely to recover from a back injury in time for the return leg.
got the match off to a bright start, pressuring the Slovenians and surging
forward at every chance.
Dvalishvili came centimeters away from the
opener with a powerful effort from 20 meters out in the fourth minute and three
minutes later he earned the hosts a penalty.
Arghus tugged slightly at
the Georgian’s shirt, but Dvalishvili hit the ground like a ton of bricks and
Portuguese referee Artur Soares pointed to the spot.
up to clinically convert the penalty, giving Haifa a perfect
However, the hosts could not build on their early goal and it was
Maribor which seized the initiative.
The Slovenians’ accurate ball
movement broke down Haifa’s defense time and again and in the 27th minute the
visitors scored a deserved equalizer.
A great team move ended at the feet
of Brazilian striker Marcus, who sent an unstoppable effort into the bottom
Maribor continued to have the better of the possession in
the remainder of the first half and Haifa was fortunate not to find itself down
at the break after Marcus’s shot from 20 meters out went just wide in the 40th
Haifa still had little to offer at the start of the second half,
but a lucky bounce saw it regain the lead in the 70th minute.
clearance somehow found its way to Dvalishvili after coming off Wiyam Amashe’s
back, and the Georgian laid the ball off for substitute Yampolsky to slot in a
fortunate winner to give Haifa a lead to defend in Slovenia next week.