MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Haifa still has its Europa League fate in its hands, but for a second
straight match it failed to record a win which would have clinched its place in
the round-of-32, losing 2-1 to AEK Larnaca in Nicosia on Thursday
With Schalke 04 beating Steaua Bucharest 2-1 in Germany on
Thursday, Haifa would have secured its progress to the knockout rounds with a
game to spare had it picked up all three points in Cyprus.
Greens were out of sorts throughout Thursday’s encounter, and their second
straight defeat in the competition after also losing 4-2 to Bucharest, leaves
them with work to do when they host Schalke in their final group game in two
A win for either Larnaca or Bucharest when the two teams meet
in their final match will mean Haifa must defeat the strong Germans to guarantee
A draw between the Romanians and the Cypriots in Bucharest
and the Israeli champion will advance even with a defeat to
Haifa had nothing to offer on the offensive end for most of
Thursday’s encounter and it gifted Larnaca the victory with two terrible
In the 14th minute, Gonzalo Garcia picked off Itzik
Cohen’s irresponsible pass to slot in the opener and six minutes after the break
Gorka Pintado doubled the lead after ‘keeper Bojan Saranov failed to close the
Defender Jurica Buljat got Haifa back into the game in the
75th minute with an excellent finish any striker would have been proud of, but
the Greens never really came close to equalizing and have left themselves
needing a win against Schalke on December 14.
Haifa will not have long to
mull over Thursday’s setback, with the Greens to visit Hapoel Tel Aviv in a
tantalizing Premier League showdown on Monday.
Hapoel had already lost
any hope of advancing to the Europa League round of 32 after picking up just a
single point in its first four matches, but it at least saved some pride and
continued the momentum from Sunday’s win over Maccabi in the Tel Aviv derby by
beating Rapid Bucharest 3-1 in Romania on Wednesday.
Nosa Igiebor made
the most of the Romanians lax defending to give Hapoel the lead in the 12th
minute before Toto Tamuz (39) doubled Tel Aviv’s advantage from the penalty spot
after Omer Damari was pulled down in the box.
Ciprian Deac got a goal
back for the hosts from the spot four minuet later after a mystifying refereeing
decision, but Tel Aviv still had a two-goal cushion at the break after Damari
squared the ball for Salim Toama for an easy finish on the stroke of
Apoula Edel ensured the visitors avoided a nervy finish to the
match when he saved Deac’s penalty in the 68th minute, but the victory only
accentuated Hapoel’s failure at picking up just a single point from its previous
“We know we missed a great opportunity to advance from
this group, but we are trying to focus on the positives,” midfielder Shay
“We have come through the derby and through the Europa
League match and now we are focusing on Haifa. There is pressure before every
match, but against Haifa it is an entirely different pressure.”
Also Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv dropped to a 3-2 defeat to Besiktas JK in Group
E action at Bloomfield Stadium.
Ricardo Quaresma scored the winner deep
into stoppage time after Maccabi fought back from two-goals down.
Portuguese forward also put his side in front on the verge of halftime, with Ibrahim Toraman doubling the lead two minutes into the second half.
from Shiran Yeini and Moshe Logasi looked to have earned Maccabi a deserved
point, but Quaresma's goal in the 92nd minute ensured Tel Aviv will end Group E
in last place after suffering a third straight continental defeat.