A perfect storm of misery for Mac Haifa

Greens fall 3-0 at home to Schalke as Bucharest beats Larnaca to seal ouster for Levy’s boys.

MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
MACCABI HAIFA captain Yaniv Katan 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Haifa’s crisis got a whole lot worse on Wednesday night after it crashed out of the Europa League following a 3-0 defeat to Schalke 04 at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
A win for Haifa would have seen it advance to the round-of-32, but the Greens rarely threatened a second-string Schalke team and were sent packing from continental competition after Steaua Bucharest beat AEK Larnaca 3-1 to leapfrog Elisha Levy’s men into second place in Group J.
Haifa seemed set for the knockout stages after winning two of its first three games, but it went on to lose its last three and fully deserved to go out in the group stage.
With Haifa also losing its past two Premier League matches, Levy’s position as coach is becoming increasingly precarious.
Despite already being guaranteed of finishing top of Group J and traveling to Israel without its coach Huub Stevens and the likes of Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Schalke seemed to be far more determined than the lackluster Haifa.
The Germans didn’t need long to take the lead, with Jurica Buljat sending Ciprian Marica’s cross into his own net in the seventh minute.
Idan Vered reached a good chance to equalize less than two minutes later, but Timo Hildebrand easily saved his weak effort and the German ’keeper was largely untroubled for the remainder of the half.
Haifa showed little improvement after the break, but it was handed a golden opportunity to equalize after 72 minutes.
Alban Sabah blocked the ball with his hand in the box, but Yaniv Katan’s penalty was well-read by Hildebrand and Marica poured salt on Haifa’s wounds with another goal in the 83rd minute to ensure the Greens were booed off the pitch yet again.
Earlier Wednesday, Maccabi Tel Aviv ended its Europa campaign with an entertaining, yet frustrating, 3-3 draw at Dynamo Kiev.
Tel Aviv, which lost any hope of progressing after its 3-2 defeat to Besiktas two weeks ago, was completely outplayed in the first half in the freezing Kiev, trailing 2-0 after 17 minutes.
Leandro Almeida’s header in the 12th minute was diverted into the bottom left corner by Maccabi captain Shiran Yeini to give the Ukrainians the breakthrough and Oleh Gusev made it 2-0 from close range just five minutes later.
Tel Aviv was helpless for the first 45 minutes, but Dynamo handed it a lifeline two minutes into the second half, with Almeida being shown a straight red card after bringing down Eliran Atar, who was through on goal.
Maccabi got a goal back from Gal Alberman’s subsequent free kick, which hit the wall and fell to the feet of Omer Vered for an easy finish.
Five minutes later, Kiev found itself with nine men after Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off following a tussle off the ball.
A superb finish by Atar from 20 meters out in the 62nd minute tied the score and 13 minutes later Munas Dabbur slotted in Maccabi’s third that looked destined to also be the winner.
However, despite having a two-man advantage, Tel Aviv couldn’t end their disappointing group campaign with a first win, with Gusev making the most of some lax defending to equalize 10 minutes from time.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which no longer has any chance of advancing to the next round, hosts Legia Warsaw in its final group game on Thursday.