Hap, Mac TA ease through to playoff round

Hapoel falls but advances; Maccabi romps at Bloomfield; Bnei Yehuda sent packing in Sweden.

Shay Abutbul (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Shay Abutbul
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Tel Aviv cruised into the playoffs of the Europa League on Thursday night, but Bnei Yehuda couldn’t make it three out of three for the Israeli clubs, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Helsingborgs IF after falling to a 3-0 defeat in the return leg in Sweden.
Bnei Yehuda took a 1-0 lead into the second leg after an impressive win over the Swedish league leader at Bloomfield Stadium last week.
However, Yossi Abuksis’s team conceded less then three minutes into Thursday’s match and was on its back foot after that. Two Helsingborgs goals and a red card for Bnei Yehuda’s Oz Raly in the space of 13 second-half minutes ended the Israelis’ hopes, leaving Abuksis’s men to focus on their Premier League campaign.
Hapoel needed just 35 seconds on Thursday to add to its 4-0 lead over Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz from the first leg at home last week.
However, it ended the night with one of the more embarrassing defeats in its history, losing 2-1.
Omer Damari scored the early opener, but Reto Zanni (78) and Rafinha (81) gave Vaduz a win that might not have had a significant effect on the aggregate score, but was humiliating for the Reds and Israeli soccer as a whole.
Maccabi will also be in Friday’s playoffs draw in Nyon, Switzerland after crushing FK Zeljeznicar 6-0 at Bloomfield to complete an 8-0 aggregate victory.
Maccabi can expect to face a tougher opponent than its arch-rival in the playoffs, as it will not be seeded in the draw.
An aggregate win in the playoffs, which will be played on August 18 and 25, will book Tel Aviv’s big guns a place in the Europa League group stage, guaranteeing them continental soccer at least until mid-December.
Maccabi ended any lingering hopes Zeljeznicar may have had of overturning its 2-0 first-leg defeat in the 18th minute, when Shiran Yeini’s cross was turned in by Roberto Colautti.
Rafi Dahan doubled the lead with a bullet from 20 meters out in the 38th minute, with Colautti scoring his fifth goal in a week in first-half stoppage time, tucking the ball in from close range.
Eliran Atar, who came on as a substitute for Colautti at halftime, piled the misery on the Bosnians with two more goals (54, 86), with Vernes Selimovic netting an own goal (81) to complete a depressing night for the visitors.
In Sweden, Bnei Yehuda got off to the worst possible start, losing its first-leg advantage after less than three minutes.
Erik Sundin crossed the ball from the left and Mattias Lindstrom took advantage of Bnei Yehuda’s terrible marking and headed in the opener from close range.
The match remained tied until the 60th minute, when Helsingborgs went ahead on aggregate thanks to a lucky deflection.
Adrian Gashi’s shot from outside the area seemed to be harmless until it took a flick off Din Mori’s foot and changed direction, leaving Bnei Yehuda goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba with no chance.
Despite trailing 2-0, Bnei Yehuda still only needed one goal to advance on away goals, but Nenad Marinkovic squandered a golden opportunity in the 67th minute, and it wasn’t long before Helsingborgs secured its progress.
Raly was sent off after being shown his second yellow card in the 69th minute and, four minutes later, Lindstrom headed in his second goal of the night to end Bnei Yehuda’s continental dreams.