Greens flying high, at home and abroad

Beersheba books spot in Conference League group stage on penalties • Maccabi Tel Aviv eliminated

Maccabi Haifa continued its torrid pace on Saturday, following up its qualifying for the Champions League group stage with a 4-1 win over Maccabi Netanya in local play. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Maccabi Haifa continued its torrid pace on Saturday, following up its qualifying for the Champions League group stage with a 4-1 win over Maccabi Netanya in local play.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Maccabi Haifa has a busy fall in store for itself after advancing to the UEFA Champions League group stages along with local Israel Premier League action.

Continentally, The Greens were drawn into Group H, where they will play Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus from Serie A and Benfica from Portugal.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Sergio Ramos will be returning to Israel after having just played the French Super Cup against Nantes earlier in the month as they will visit Sammy Ofer Stadium by the Carmel Mountain on Wednesday, September 14.

Juventus will make its third trip to the Holy Land after playing against Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2004 and Haifa in 2009, with the Italian powerhouse slated to be in Israel on Tuesday, October 11th during the Sukkot holiday.

Finally, Benfica will make its first venture to Israel when it comes to town on Wednesday, November 2.

 MACCABI HAIFA will need all hands on deck for its Champions League Play-Off showdown against Red Star Belgrade, with the first leg kicking off tonight in Israel. (credit: MACCABI HAIFA) MACCABI HAIFA will need all hands on deck for its Champions League Play-Off showdown against Red Star Belgrade, with the first leg kicking off tonight in Israel. (credit: MACCABI HAIFA)

Domestic clashes

“In the second half we went back to the basics and our substitutes also helped matters in taking the win.”

Barak Bachar

However, before Barak Bachar’s squad opens up the Champions League campaign on the road in Lisbon against Benfica next week, the Greens have a number of domestic clashes. They passed their first test at home on Saturday with a 4-1 win over Maccabi Netanya as Omer Atzily scored a hat-trick in the victory.

Benny Lam’s team opened the scoring as Igor Zlatanovic scored a header to give the diamond city squad a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.

But Atzily nodded home a Pierre Cornud ball just at the stroke of halftime to draw the hosts even.

In the 78th minute, Atzily was yanked down in the box and he slotted home a penalty, before adding his third of the game 10 minutes later when he curled in a gorgeous goal to help Haifa to a 3-1 lead.

As the contest moved into injury time, Atzily played facilitator for Tjaron Chery’s goal as Bachar’s team grabbed the points with four unanswered goals.

“The staff proved that they are the very best as they prepared the players well. both physically and mentally, and we knew how to come back from a deficit against a very strong team,” Bachar commented. “In the second half we went back to the basics and our substitutes also helped matters in taking the win.”

Lam looked back at the penalty as the pivotal moment of the contest.

“The penalty broke us,” Lam said. “It shouldn’t have happened and I am disappointed. The game could have ended 2-1 and it didn’t have to end 4-1. Haifa played well and had opportunities, but what occurred here doesn’t reflect our team, I hope that we will be able to improve our play.”

In European play, Hapoel Beersheba advanced to the UEFA Conference League group stage after defeating Craiova 4-3 on penalties after having drawn 1-1 in both the first and second legs of the Play-Off round.

Southern Reds ’keeper Omri Glazer came up huge in the penalty shootout, stopping two spot kicks to see  Elyaniv Barda’s squad through.

After 90 minutes of goalless play, Ante Roguljic scored on a free kick in the 105th minute, but Tomer Hemed came right back for the hosts to draw even as the match headed to penalties.

Glazer’s heroics saved the day to help Beersheba punch its ticket to the competition’s group stages for the first time.

Beersheba will now match up against La Liga powerhouse Villarreal, Austria Wien and Lech Poznan.

“We played a very good game,” Barda said following the game. “We created many chances, but we couldn’t finish them. The guys never lost confidence that we could do it and we had a red army of 16,000 fans backing us up. We made it past three very good teams.”

Glazer also reflected on the achievement.

“We had very tough games against very high-level teams to get to the group stages,” noted the Beersheba ’keeper. “We had to suffer in order to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We all deserved this and practiced all week long. However, we haven’t proven anything just yet as we have the group stages, the league and cup ahead of us.”

In France, meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv was eliminated from Conference League play after falling at Nice 2-0 (2-1 on aggregate).

With the tie knotted 1-1 after the end of the second leg’s 90 minutes, Maccabi conceded a goal in overtime and will not play in the group stages of the competition. Alexis Claude-Maurice scored in the first half to even up the two-legged tie and Alexis Beka Beka found the winner in the extra session to see the Ligue 1 side through.

Yellow-and-blue ’keeper Daniel Peretz spoke about the defeat.

“It’s really disappointing and we had chances to score, but to give up a goal like this we have to look at it as if it’s for the good and we have to just move on. Nice is a super quality team and the toughest club to get in the draw. I’m proud of the entire team and the fans as well; there is nothing that we can do.”

In other Israeli soccer action, Bnei Sakhnin stunned Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-0 at Bloomfield Stadium as winger Nicolao Dumitru scored a first-half brace in the win.

Taleb Tawhatha sent Dumitru a terrific cross in the box that the latter put home in the 11th minute, while 20 minutes later the winger found the back of the goal once again as he pounced on a loose ball following a cover kick to secure the victory.

“It’s great to begin the season this way,” Sakhnin coach Haim Silvas said. “To come to this stadium against this team and win in our first game is just perfect. We made our fans very happy as well as ourselves and we could have even won by more goals. Next up is Maccabi Haifa later this week and that will be a big physical test.”

Elsewhere, Hapoel Jerusalem and Ironi Kiryat Shmona drew 1-1 as the sides split the points up in the northern capital.

Itamar Shviro continued his scoring run as the striker gave Menachem Koretzky’s the lead in the ninth minute, but Cedric Don headed home the tying marker in the second half for the Jerusalem Reds as each team earned a point.

“We started the game well and scored an early goal, but we didn’t show up in the second half,” Koretzky said. “We stayed back and we should have pressed and attacked in order to score a second goal. We didn’t deserve more than a point, but we will take it and move on.”

The Jerusalem coach shared a similar perspective to his counterpart.

“We came into this game looking tired and our poor start for the second time in as many weeks led to an early goal,” Arie said. “But I will take the fact that we came back and we played well after we drew even.”

Finally, Ashdod SC blanked Sektzia Nes Ziona 1-0 on a Nenad Cvetkovic header goal in the 45th minute off a short corner kick to hand the port city side the three points and the win.