MACCABI HAIFA’S Eyal Golasa311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa players were almost inconsolable after missing out on a place in
the Champions League group stage in heartbreaking fashion on Tuesday night,
losing 4-1 in penalties to KRC Genk after extra-time ended 3-3 on
After failing to make the most of its dominance in the first
leg at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, winning just 2-1, Haifa had numerous
chances to secure its progress in Belgium, but it could only score once against
the mediocre Genk, which took advantage of Maccabi’s fragile defense to force
extra-time with a 2-1 win.
Jelle Vossen scored the opener for Genk in the
35th minute, with Eyal Golasa equalizing two minutes later with a superb effort,
only for Thomas Buffel to put the Belgians back in front four minutes before the
Haifa came centimeters away from scoring a second away goal in the
104th minute, which would have all but clinched its place in the group stage,
with Weeam Amasha’s shot taking a deflection and smashing against the
In the 109th minute, referee Howard Webb inexplicably sent-off
Haifa’s Itzik Cohen, showing the defender a second yellow card for what he
deemed to be a foul from behind on substitute Marvin Ogunjimi.
spent the remainder of the match holding out for a penalty shootout, but
Vladimir Dvalishvili and Golasa failed to convert Maccabi’s first two kicks,
while the Belgians converted all four of their penalties, with Daniel Pudil
clinching the win.
“We can only blame ourselves for being knocked out,”
said a red-eyed Yaniv Katan, who was hoping to play with Haifa in the Champions
League for the third time.
“I think that we are the better team. We could
have decided the tie in Ramat Gan, but we failed to do so. We are
Haifa will still play in continental competition
deep into the winter as the losers in the playoffs are granted a place in the
Europa League group stage.
However, coach Elisha Levy knows that Europa
League soccer is scant consolation for falling tantalizingly short of a place in
European soccer’s most prestigious competition.
“The fate of the tie was
in our hands until the very end,” Levy said. “It is a shame we weren’t cool
enough to clinch the win in penalties. The players gave their all and we are
“I think we lost the tie in Ramat Gan. We should have
brought a bigger lead to Belgium. The players did everything they could, but we
now have to put all the sadness aside and focus on what we have left.”