Maccabi Haifa defeated Slovan Bratislava 3-1 late Tuesday night at Sammy Ofer Stadium in the second-leg, third-round UEFA Champions League qualifying to claim a 5-2 aggregate victory and advance to the Play-off Round.
The Greens will now host Young Boys in the opener of a two-legged tie, with the first leg taking place next Wednesday at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Captain Tjaron Chery was the man of the match with a trio of assists in a contest that was never in doubt as Messay Dego’s squad will have an opportunity to play in the group stages of the Champions League for the second straight season and would become the first Israeli team to ever do so.
Should the Greens not get past the Swiss side, they will feature in the Europa League group stages.
Frantzdy Pierrot broke the ice when he headed home the opening marker thanks to a terrific cross by Chery in the 29th minute, while Dia Saba doubled the advantage just ahead of the break when Chery sent the attacking midfielder a magnificent through-ball that he put behind Milan Borjan for a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Each side had chances in the second half, and Marko Tolic pulled Bratislava to within one with an 85-minute marker.But Dean David scored from the top of the box thanks to Chery’s third assist of the match in added time to send the Greens into the Play-off Round.
“When I signed here I didn’t look too far ahead,” Dego said following the game. “It was important for me to just be a part of the club, which is what happened. They have given me the chance to work hard and I’ve been able to repay them with at least an appearance in the Europa League group stages. After Slovan opened up well we were able to start moving the ball from side to side and created chances helping us score and take the win.”Pierrot also spoke about the clash.
“It’s been a couple of games that I hadn’t scored, but in front of the home fans I had to do it. I am trying to do my best in front for the team and put myself in a good position to score, but it’s because of my teammates that I can. The only way to advance to the Champions League is to do it as a team. We know Young Boys will be a tough opponent and w have to come in and play hard.”