(photo credit: Maccabi Haifa website)
Maccabi Haifa fought back from two-goals down to draw 2- 2 at Shakhter Karagandy
of Kazakhstan on Thursday night, picking up a creditable point to kick start its
Europa League Group L campaign.
Haifa entered the match with its back
against the wall after collecting just a single point from its past three
Premier League games and losing 1-0 to AZ Alkmaar in its Europa group opener two
weeks ago. It could have easily fallen to pieces after finding itself in a
two-goal hole at halftime, but the introduction of Alon Turgeman and Hen Ezra at
the break completely changed the complexion of the encounter, with the latter
cutting the deficit before the former secured Haifa a point with a sensational
long range effort in the 78th minute.
Haifa still failed to win for a
sixth consecutive match in all competitions, but coach Arik Benado will draw far
more positives than negatives from Thursday’s performance as the Greens look to
get their league campaign back on track when they host Hapoel Beersheba on
Later Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv faced Girondins de Bordeaux in
Europa League Group F action in France.
Shakhter put Haifa under early
pressure and should have really taken the lead after just six minutes.
Right-back Aleksandar Simcevic found himself with all the time in the world and
with only goalkeeper Bojan Saranov to beat, but he showed exactly why he plays
in defense rather than attack when he blasted his shot high above the
Haifa survived Karagandy’s initial onslaught and had its fair share
of possession in the remainder of the first half. However, the Greens lost their
composure in the final five minutes of the half and paid a dear
Andrei Finonchenko’s header was not accurately placed, but it was
more than powerful enough, not giving Saranov enough time to
Matters only got worse for Haifa in the final minute of the half,
with Yevgeni Tarasov finding himself unmarked inside the area and placing the
ball beyond Saranov to give the Kazakhs an advantage they scarcely
Benado made seven changes to the lineup that started against AZ
two weeks ago, but his experiment clearly failed in the first half, prompting
the coach to bring on Ezra and Turgeman at the start of the second
The double substitution paid off almost immediately, with Ezra
finding the bottom left corner with a precise effort in the 54th minute after
Turgeman broke down Shakhter’s defense with his persistence.
solely responsible for Haifa’s equalizer, stealing the ball from the Karagandy
defense in its own half before sending a stunning shot from 20 meters out into
the top right corner, silencing the crowd at the Astana Arena.
continued to press forward in search of a winner, but it was almost caught off
guard in the 88th minute, only for Sergei Khizhnichenko to miss his header from
two meters out.
Haifa survived the scare and held on for a valuable
point, one which also helped regain some lost pride after a rocky start to the