Betar's European dream shattered

Wisla Krakow thumps Jerusalem 5-0 in Poland to set up clash with Barcelona.

krakow betar 224.88 (photo credit: )
krakow betar 224.88
(photo credit: )
Eleven years ago Betar Jerusalem traveled to Belgium full of confidence that the 2-1 lead it had built at home would carry it through against Club Bruges in the second leg of its UEFA Cup first round tie. But when the relatively inexperienced Israeli team arrived in Europe the players were overtaken by the occasion and swept aside, losing 3-0 on the night. The Betar side built by former Panathinaikos coach Itzhak Schum was believed to be made of sterner stuff when it arrived in Poland having also eked out a 2-1 victory in last week's first leg. However, it was brought down to earth with an uncomfortable bump on Wednesday night, losing 5-0 to Wisla Krakow in the second leg of the Champions League second qualifying round and missing out on a chance to play Barcelona for a place in the group stage of the competition. The aggregate 6-2 result was a fine indication of just how disappointing the much hyped Betar team had been over the two legs, especially on Wednesday. Krakow simply ran rings round the team in gold, making the visitors look less than ordinary. The hosts scored its first three goals before half time, all coming due to poor defensive play by Jerusalem. Considering the importance of the game neither side wanted to make a false move in the opening few minutes so the game started at a slow pace. Then, with eight minutes gone, Derek Boateng gave a free kick away just outside the penalty after he kicked Krakow's Tomas Jirsak in the face while trying to clear a ball. Argentinian midfielder Mauro Cantoro fired the ball to the right of the Betar wall, well past Kale's dive, and put the Poles 1-0 up. Immediately the game settled and Krakow took control. The Betar defense was at sixes and sevens and was unlucky not to concede from a strong Junior Diaz shot after failing to clear a corner properly. The midfield was nearly as bad. When Idan Tal was given a yellow card for a dirty foul on Wisla left back Piotr Brozek it was just the latest in far too many late tackles and fouls committed by the visiting team in the first 20 minutes. Moshe Ohayon, who was included in the first 11 in place of the injured Dario Fernandez, was seemingly absent from the game, aside from a few bad challenges. The situation went from bad to worse as the clocked moved to 24 minutes. Another mix up at the back saw Kale punch the ball out. It landed at the feet of Marcin Baszynski, who was promptly fouled in the box by Tal. Brazilian center back Cleber stepped up to take the penalty and had no problems making it 2-0 to Krakow with 65 minutes left to play. The home team continued to play with a high level of confidence, while Betar coach Itzhak Schum was left shaking his head in despair on the touchline. Aviram Bruchian, the hero of the first leg after he scored two goals, had Jerusalem's first real shot on goal on the half hour mark, but it was way too weak to trouble Mariusz Pawlek in the Wisla goal. And on 36 minutes star striker Pawel Brozek scored Wisla's third goal without reply when he ran on to a cross field pass which split the weak Jerusalem defense and slotted the ball home. The plan to play a 4-5-1 formation to try and pack the center of the park and prevent Krakow attacks hadn't worked, so Schum reverted to 4-4-2 in the second half. Fernandez and striker Barak Itzhaki came on at half time in place of Michael Zandberg and Ohayon with the former Genk forward partnering Sebastian Abreu up front. But nothing came of it and it was Krakow who scored first in the second period. An overhead kick cross by Wojciech Iobdzinski landed at the feet of Diaz, who made sure of the win with an easy goal. With a last throw of the dice Schum substitued Tal for Toto Tamuz, to give Jerusalem a three-pronged attack on 60 minutes. And Itzhaki nearly scored eight minutes later when Abreu headed down a cross from Bruchian. But the striker summed up his team's night when he sent his shot way over the bar from a few meters out in front of an open goal. With the clock winding down Andrezej Niedzielan put the final nail in Betar's coffin when he made it 5-0 with an easy goal from not far out. Jerusalem visits Maccabi Haifa on Saturday in the first round of the Toto Cup, a competition seemingly much more suited to a team of this stature.