Haifa happy at home, both TA clubs lose

Greens coast to 5-0 rout; Reds drop tough one to PSV, yellow-and-blue stung by Stoke.

Maccabi Haifa 311 R (photo credit: Reuters/Darren Staples)
Maccabi Haifa 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters/Darren Staples)
Maccabi Haifa took a significant step towards the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday night, while Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv lost any realistic chance of advancing.
Haifa impressed with a 5-0 thrashing of Steaua Bucharest at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, and with six points from its first three matches, can already secure its place in the next stage should it win in Romania in two weeks time.
“We are in a good position in the group and if we enter the match in Bucharest with the right attitude we can do it,” Haifa’s delighted coach Elisha Levy said.
“Haifa played tonight one of its best matches ever in European competition.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv, on the other hand, is still searching for its first point in Group C after losing 1-0 to PSV Eindhoven at Bloomfield Stadium, with Georginio Wijnaldum scoring the only goal of the match from the penalty spot in the 70th minute.
Maccabi Tel Aviv is also bottom of its group with just a single point after losing 3-0 at Stoke City.
Maccabi struggled from the start with the hosts’ physical superiority and found itself three goals down as early as the 32nd minute. In the 12th minute, Kenwyne Jones was carelessly left all alone in the center of the box and headed in the opener direct from a corner kick.
Tel Aviv’s poor marking in set pieces cost it dearly once more 12 minutes later, with Cameron Jerome heading in Stoke’s second goal of the night.
Another defensive mix-up allowed Ryan Shotton to increase Stoke’s lead to 3-0 in the 32nd minute, with Jerome being sent off in the 42nd for elbowing Yoav Ziv and Ziv being shown a red card in the 55th for recklessly kicking his boot at the referee’s assistant.
In Haifa, it was clear from the kickoff that both teams were intent on playing attacking soccer and it was Haifa which crucially made the most of its early chances.
After 10 minutes, captain Yaniv Katan expertly threaded a ball through to Weeam Amasha and Haifa’s speedy striker slotted in the opener.
Another 10 minutes passed, and after Bucharest ’keeper Razvan Stanca saved Eyal Golasa’s initial shot, Amasha was perfectly placed to score his second of the night from the rebound with a splendid bicycle kick.
The Romanians came centimeters away from cutting the deficit moments later, but Leandro Tatu’s header went out off the post.
Eight minutes from halftime the match was as good as over.
Steaua’s Eric Bicfalvi could not cope with Amasha’s pace and was shown a red card after bringing him down in the box and denying him a clear shot at goal.
Katan stepped up to convert the spot kick and Haifa entered the break in cruise control with a three-goal and a one-man advantage.
Katan had an ideal opportunity to extend Haifa’s lead in the 65th minute after Amasha was tumbled over in the box, resulting in a red card for Valentin Iliev.
However, the captain smashed his penalty against the crossbar and the Greens had to wait seven more minutes before scoring their fourth goal of the night.
Taleb Tawatha had time and space 20 meters out from goal after a Haifa corner kick and his sharp left-footed attempt found the bottom right corner, giving him his first ever goal in European competition.
Idan Vered piled the misery on Bucharest with a fifth goal seven minutes later and Haifa will be hoping to already book its place in the next stage of the Europa League when it plays in Romania in two weeks time.
Israel’s representatives in the Europa League will not have long to mull over Thursday’s results as they will already be back in Premier League action on Sunday.
Haifa hosts Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Maccabi Tel Aviv, which lost to Kiryat Shmona earlier this week, welcomes Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Ashdod SC.
On Saturday, Hapoel Petah Tikva hosts Hapoel Haifa, Hapoel Acre visits Hapoel Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Beersheba goes to Maccabi Netanya and Hapoel Ramat Hasharon welcomes Bnei Yehuda.
Betar Jerusalem visits Bnei Sakhnin on Monday.