Maccabi Haifa 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Haifa may have completed its progression to the third qualifying round
of the Champions League on Wednesday night, but coach Elisha Levy was left with
plenty to ponder after seeing his team drop to a humbling 3-2 defeat at Bosnia’s
FK Borac Banja Luka.
Last week’s 5-1 victory in the first leg at Kiryat
Eliezer Stadium ensured that Haifa was never in any real danger of being knocked
out on Wednesday.
However, with the first leg of the third qualifying
round against Slovenian champion NK Maribor already coming up in six days, Haifa
has got little time to find its form and register the improvement needed if it
has any intention of advancing to the playoff round and ultimately reaching the
group stage for the second time in three years.
The Greens were apathetic
and inaccurate from the first whistle, with the hosts pushing forward at every
opportunity and exposing Haifa’s defensive frailties time and
Maccabi recorded the first chance of the match after eight minutes
when Vladimir Dvalishvili’s shot came off the upright, but just a minute later
Borac took the lead.
Branislav Krunic was left completely unmarked in the
Haifa box and he had little trouble heading the ball past Greens goalkeeper Nir
An early breakthrough was exactly what the Bosnians needed
and five minutes later it was only good fortune that saved Haifa from falling
two goals behind.
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Davidovich dropped a corner kick and Idan Vered had to
clear Nemanja Vidakovic’s shot from the line before Krunic inexplicably smashed
the rebound off the post instead of tucking it into the back of the
Ten minutes later, Haifa was gifted the equalizer.
Borac defensive mistake, Vered squared the ball for Dvalishvili, who slid in to
score a goal which should have put the tie to rest.
However, to its
credit, Banja Luka never stopped fighting, and in the 34th minute it regained
Haifa’s hapless defense couldn’t clear the danger and Krunic’s
shot from the center of the box slipped through Davidovich’s hands and slid in
between his legs for what is surely one of the more embarrassing goals he has
conceded in his career.
Haifa was lucky not to find itself two goals down
at the break, with Vidakovic somehow sending his shot well high from five meters
out with Davidovich on his knees after saving a long range effort.
visitors finally showed some urgency at the start of the second half and eight
minutes after the break they clinched the tie once and for all.
Golasa found Wiyam Amashe with a delightful ball, and after shaking a defender,
the striker crossed for Dvalishvili, who for the second time in the match
completed the simple task of tucking the ball into an empty net.
Haifa’s defense continued its shocking display in the 84th minute, with
Vidakovic being left all alone in the center of the box to score a deserved,
albeit meaningless, winner for Borac.
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