Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
In the face of ongoing rocket fire towards Tel Aviv and central Israel, UEFA confirmed on Thursday that Maccabi Tel Aviv and Santa Coloma will exchange venues for the home and away legs of their Champions League second round qualifier.
The Israeli champion will now be playing in Andorra this coming Tuesday, July 15, and will host Santa Coloma in the return leg a week later.
The Maccabi squad is expected to fly off to the small mountainous principality in the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border at the beginning of next week.
Maccabi received Santa Coloma’s approval to switch home-court on Wednesday and UEFA accepted the request on Thursday.
Santa Coloma won its first ever tie in European competition on Tuesday thanks to a 95th-minute goal by goalkeeper Eloy Casals.
FC Banants of Armenia still won the second leg 3-2, but Casals’s strike ensured the Andorrans advanced on away goals, tying the aggregate score at 3-3 after Santa Coloma claimed a 1-0 victory at home.
Santa Coloma’s only previous win in a European match came against Maccabi Tel Aviv of all teams.
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The yellow-and-blue suffered an embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Andorra in the first leg of the UEFA Cup first qualifying round in 2007/08 before securing its progress with a 4-0 home victory.
Thursday’s decision by European football’s governing body means UEFA didn’t have to make a ruling on whether the first leg can be played in Israel next week.
However, a decision still has to be made regarding the matches of Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Beersheba in the Europa League second qualifying round.
Both Israeli sides are scheduled to host their first legs next Thursday, and will hope their opponents also agree to exchange venues in order to avoid having to play their home legs abroad should UEFA determine that they can’t be held in Israel.
In June 2013, UEFA held the finals of its men’s under-21 tournament in Israel despite widespread calls to change the venue because of so-called Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians.
UEFA’s 2015 women’s under-19 finals are also slated to be hosted by Israel.
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