soccer ball 88.
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Maccabi Petah Tikva came up a goal short of reaching the UEFA Cup. An exciting 3-2 victory over Ethnikos Achnas in the return leg of its third round Intertoto Cup match was not enough to overcome a 2-0 defeat in Herzliya last weekend.
"It was in our hands," forward Omer Golan said after the game. "I can't explain why this happened. It's very disappointing, as we wanted to give the people of Israel something to cheer about.
"But we shall concentrate on the domestic league now."
The Israeli side had to come up with a convincing offensive effort in order to stand a chance to qualify for this season's UEFA Cup. Coach Guy Luzon opted for an attacking formation by inserting Omer Golan and Emanuel Ebiede, who was available after serving a one-game suspension, into his starting 11.
Petah Tikva enjoyed most of the ball possession in the first half and stunned the hosts with some impressive play from the flanks.
The breakthrough came in the 30th minute. Rubel Sarsour took control of the ball in the penalty area, but produced a weak effort towards the center of the goal. Achnas goalkeeper Panayiotis Charalampous mishandled the ball and fumbled Sarsour's shot into his goal, enabling the visitors to draw first blood.
The visitors kept coming ahead and doubled their lead just one minute before the halftime whistle. Brazilian midfielder Jefisley Caldeira dribbled past his markers and let fly from long range with his left foot, the looping ball landing in the back of the net.
Petah Tikva and the Cypriot side were even on aggregate score, but just when it looked like the odds were in the visitors' favor, the tide turned back in the second half.
Despite the "Luzons'" relentless attacks, the hosts drew level within a six-minute period by making the most of lapses in Petah Tikva's defense.
Serbian Milan Belic scored from close range in the 72nd minute and full back Christos Siailis provided a clinical finish to make it 2-2 in the 78th.
It did not take long for Patrick Suffo, who had come into the game for Petah Tikva just a minute before Achnas's equalizer, to make his mark on the game. The Nigerian striker, clearly lacking match fitness, found the post in his first effort on goal.
Suffo was on target, though, in the 86th minute when he finished from close range off a brilliant cross by Emanuel Ebiede, to give the "Luzons" a late 3-2 lead.
Suffo came close to levelling the aggregate score - but also guaranteeing Petah Tikva a spot in the UEFA Cup draw based on the away-goal rule - in injury time. His sharp shot from 20 meters was heroically saved by Achnas goalkeeper Charalampous.
Petah Tikva coach Guy Luzon was sent off in the 90th minute after arguing with the game officials.
"Our reception was totally normal and everything was fine," said Petah Tikva chairman Moshe Zoaretz, commenting on security threats prior to the match. "There were around 2,000 local fans at the game and it was a very sporting atmosphere. We didn't have to deal with any hostile behavior whatsoever."