(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
With just 20 minutes remaining, there were plenty of worried faces at Kiryat
Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday night.
Maccabi Haifa had dominated its
Champions League second qualifying round first leg against Bosnian champion FK
Borac Banja Luka from the start, but the visitors took a stunning lead in the
24th minute through Boris Raspudic.
And despite Wiyam Amashe’s firsthalf
stoppage time equalizer, the Greens struggled to break down Banja Luka’s defense
and looked set to face an uphill battle in the return leg next
However, four goals in the space of 10 second-half minutes,
two by Amashe (71, 73) to complete a hat trick in his Haifa debut, another by
fellow debutant Dela Yampolsky (72) and the last by Eyal Golasa (80), all but
secured Maccabi’s place in the next round, for which the draw will already be
made this Friday.
“We lacked a cutting edge in the first half, but we
were still playing the way we needed to,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “We
conceded a goal we could have avoided, but in the second half we played the way
I want us to and had some very nice moves.
“We recovered from a difficult
situation and recorded a good result.”
Amashe struggled to reach scoring
opportunities while playing as a lone striker in the first 39 minutes of the
However, the introduction of Georgian scorer Vladimir Dvalishvili
in place of midfielder Gustavo Boccoli six minutes before the break freed
Haifa’s Druse forward, giving him the space he needed to penetrate Borac’s
“I never dreamed of a debut like this,” said Amashe, who joined
this summer from Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
“I’m really happy to have started
my time at Haifa like this. We must make it to the group stage otherwise these
goals are worthless. Elisha gave us excellent instructions at halftime and we
were superb in the second half.”
Despite seeing him score a hat trick on
his debut, Levy believes that Amashe will only get better.
began training with us two weeks ago, and I’m very happy he has gelled with the
team so quickly,” Levy said.
“He is going to be much
Haifa controlled the possession from the kickoff, but its breaks
forward seemed to stall every time they arrived near Borac’s box.
departures of key offensive weapons Lior Rafaelov (Club Brugge) and Tomer Hemed
(RCD Mallorca) in the offseason began to look especially costly when the
Bosnians caught Haifa’s defense napping, and Raspudic slotted in the opener
beneath goalkeeper Nir Davidovich.
Levy lost patience with his team’s
lack of imagination in the 39th minute, sending on Dvalishvili, and the Greens
scored six minutes later at a crucial moment.
Taleb Tawatha crossed the
ball from the left after a short Haifa corner, and Amashe was on hand to
equalize with his left foot moments before the first half came to a
Haifa fans were surely hoping that their side would go on to
steamroll the visitors at the start of the second half, but goalkeeper Asmir
Avdukic had very little work to do in the first 25 minutes of the
In the 61st minute, captain Yaniv Katan was substituted by
Yampolsky and Haifa would soon run riot.
Yampolsky’s free kick from the
right side in the 71st minute was headed in by Amashe before the midfielder got
in on the scoring himself a minute later, slicing the Borac defense and finding
the back of the net with a cool finish.
Another minute passed and Amashe
scored his third of the match from the edge of the area, with Golasa capping the
scoring 10 minutes from time, ensuring that Haifa would move one step closer to
its second appearance in the Champions League group stage in three seasons.