Greens take care of home field vs Maribor

Mac Haifa claims 2-1 first-leg victory over Slovenian champion at Kiryat Eliezer.

Maccabi Haifa Vladimir Dvalishvili_311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa Vladimir Dvalishvili_311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa will take a fragile 2-1 lead into the second leg of its Champions League third qualifying round at NK Maribor next week thanks to an auspicious win at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday night.
Haifa created little to nothing throughout the match and was outplayed by the Slovenians for large periods.
However, a questionable penalty, converted by Vladimir Dvalishvili in the eighth minute, and Dela Yampolsky’s winner 20 minutes from time, gave Haifa a win it didn’t deserve and a vital lead ahead of next Wednesday’s return leg in Slovenia.
Nevertheless, Elisha Levy’s Greens will surely not be as fortunate next week and will need to show a significant improvement if they are to reach the playoff round, not to mention the group stage of continental soccer’s most prestigious competition.
Haifa will at least be boosted by the fact that both Gustavo Boccoli and Seidu Yahya will return from suspension next week, with influential forward Yaniv Katan also likely to recover from a back injury in time for the return leg.
Haifa got the match off to a bright start, pressuring the Slovenians and surging forward at every chance.
Dvalishvili came centimeters away from the opener with a powerful effort from 20 meters out in the fourth minute and three minutes later he earned the hosts a penalty.
Arghus tugged slightly at the Georgian’s shirt, but Dvalishvili hit the ground like a ton of bricks and Portuguese referee Artur Soares pointed to the spot.
Dvalishvili stepped up to clinically convert the penalty, giving Haifa a perfect start.
However, the hosts could not build on their early goal and it was Maribor which seized the initiative.
The Slovenians’ accurate ball movement broke down Haifa’s defense time and again and in the 27th minute the visitors scored a deserved equalizer.
A great team move ended at the feet of Brazilian striker Marcus, who sent an unstoppable effort into the bottom right corner.
Maribor continued to have the better of the possession in the remainder of the first half and Haifa was fortunate not to find itself down at the break after Marcus’s shot from 20 meters out went just wide in the 40th minute.
Haifa still had little to offer at the start of the second half, but a lucky bounce saw it regain the lead in the 70th minute.
A Maribor clearance somehow found its way to Dvalishvili after coming off Wiyam Amashe’s back, and the Georgian laid the ball off for substitute Yampolsky to slot in a fortunate winner to give Haifa a lead to defend in Slovenia next week.