Haifa uses 2nd-half spurt to drub Banja Luka

Hat trick for Amashe; 4 goals in 10 minutes all but ensure Greens’ passage to 3rd round.

Wiyam Amashe_311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Wiyam Amashe_311
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
With just 20 minutes remaining, there were plenty of worried faces at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium on Wednesday night.
Maccabi Haifa had dominated its Champions League second qualifying round first leg against Bosnian champion FK Borac Banja Luka from the start, but the visitors took a stunning lead in the 24th minute through Boris Raspudic.
And despite Wiyam Amashe’s firsthalf stoppage time equalizer, the Greens struggled to break down Banja Luka’s defense and looked set to face an uphill battle in the return leg next Wednesday.
However, four goals in the space of 10 second-half minutes, two by Amashe (71, 73) to complete a hat trick in his Haifa debut, another by fellow debutant Dela Yampolsky (72) and the last by Eyal Golasa (80), all but secured Maccabi’s place in the next round, for which the draw will already be made this Friday.
“We lacked a cutting edge in the first half, but we were still playing the way we needed to,” Haifa coach Elisha Levy said. “We conceded a goal we could have avoided, but in the second half we played the way I want us to and had some very nice moves.
“We recovered from a difficult situation and recorded a good result.”
Amashe struggled to reach scoring opportunities while playing as a lone striker in the first 39 minutes of the match.
However, the introduction of Georgian scorer Vladimir Dvalishvili in place of midfielder Gustavo Boccoli six minutes before the break freed Haifa’s Druse forward, giving him the space he needed to penetrate Borac’s defense.
“I never dreamed of a debut like this,” said Amashe, who joined this summer from Ironi Kiryat Shmona.
“I’m really happy to have started my time at Haifa like this. We must make it to the group stage otherwise these goals are worthless. Elisha gave us excellent instructions at halftime and we were superb in the second half.”
Despite seeing him score a hat trick on his debut, Levy believes that Amashe will only get better.
“Amashe only began training with us two weeks ago, and I’m very happy he has gelled with the team so quickly,” Levy said.
“He is going to be much better.”
Haifa controlled the possession from the kickoff, but its breaks forward seemed to stall every time they arrived near Borac’s box.
The departures of key offensive weapons Lior Rafaelov (Club Brugge) and Tomer Hemed (RCD Mallorca) in the offseason began to look especially costly when the Bosnians caught Haifa’s defense napping, and Raspudic slotted in the opener beneath goalkeeper Nir Davidovich.
Levy lost patience with his team’s lack of imagination in the 39th minute, sending on Dvalishvili, and the Greens scored six minutes later at a crucial moment.
Taleb Tawatha crossed the ball from the left after a short Haifa corner, and Amashe was on hand to equalize with his left foot moments before the first half came to a close.
Haifa fans were surely hoping that their side would go on to steamroll the visitors at the start of the second half, but goalkeeper Asmir Avdukic had very little work to do in the first 25 minutes of the half.
In the 61st minute, captain Yaniv Katan was substituted by Yampolsky and Haifa would soon run riot.
Yampolsky’s free kick from the right side in the 71st minute was headed in by Amashe before the midfielder got in on the scoring himself a minute later, slicing the Borac defense and finding the back of the net with a cool finish.
Another minute passed and Amashe scored his third of the match from the edge of the area, with Golasa capping the scoring 10 minutes from time, ensuring that Haifa would move one step closer to its second appearance in the Champions League group stage in three seasons.