Bnei Yehuda snags Europa League bid by stunning Mac TA

Maccabi seemed to be cruising when Moussa Konate doubled the yellow-and-blue’s lead with a 26th-minute header.

Soccer 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Soccer 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Bnei Yehuda came back from two goals down to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-3 at Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday night, clinching a place in the Europa League for next season.
Maccabi seemed to be cruising when Moussa Konate doubled the yellow-and-blue’s lead with a 26th-minute header after Dor Micha tucked in the opener on six minutes.
However, Nenad Marinkovic gave Bnei Yehuda a lifeline with an accurate shot from the edge of the area just two minutes later and the hosts completed a memorable comeback in the second half.
A splendid left-footed effort from the edge of the box by Amir Agajev tied the score in the 71st minute and Pedro Galvan scored arguably the easiest goal of his career eight minutes later after Maccabi ’keeper Guy Haimov spilled an Agajev shot right into the path of the Argentinian.
Bnei Yehuda clinched the win two minutes from time through a Pini Balili goal, with Dor Jan’s stoppage-time strike on his debut of no consolation for Maccabi, which will not play in Europe next season after a desperately poor campaign.
A win for Bnei Yehuda at Ashdod SC on Saturday will ensure it ends the season in second place, but even should it lose it will not finish any lower than third.
“If we end the season in second that will be like we won the championship,” Bnei Yehuda coach Yossi Abuksis said. “We were on the ropes, but the players deserve all the credit for coming back and playing superbly in the second half.
“I didn’t believe we could have such a season. We struggled to bring in players because of financial problems and this is an amazing moment.”
Wednesday’s defeat was Maccabi’s 14th of the campaign, equal to its worst ever total.
“This is very disappointing,” said coach Nir Levine, who will soon make way for a new boss.
“This match epitomizes our entire season. There is no excuse for losing a two-goal lead.”
Maccabi Haifa remained in the hunt for a Europa League berth with a 1-0 win at champion Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday.
Alon Turgeman scored the only goal of the match with a cool 11th-minute finish.
Haifa hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday, with the winner to end the season at least in third place and secure European qualification ahead of next Tuesday’s State Cup final showdown between the sides from which the winner will also play in the Europa League.
A draw between the teams on Saturday will open the door for Maccabi Netanya to book a place in continental competition.
“It was very important for us to win this match,” said Haifa coach Elisha Levy. “We now face two cup finals and we will make sure we are as ready as possible for these matches.”