Kiryat Shmona faces uphill battle in 2nd leg

Landau’s boys face Zilina at home in effort to keep Champions League hopes alive.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona's David Solari 390 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona's David Solari 390
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ironi Kiryat Shmona coach Gili Landau admitted that his team faces its moment of truth on Tuesday when it hosts MSK Zilina in the return leg of the Champions League second qualifying round at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in Haifa, looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit from last week.
Kiryat Shmona had it chances in the first leg in Slovakia, but faces a tricky second leg after Jozef Piacek gave Zilina the win with an 82nd-minute header.
With its home stadium not suitable to host European matches, Kiryat Shmona is forced to play Zilina in Haifa, but Landau believes his side can complete the job and avoid having its continental campaign already end in July.
“Clearly the pressure is on us,” Landau said. “But I trust my players and I think this can be their finest hour.
“It won’t be easy, but we will be focused and will need to play patiently and maturely to achieve our goal.”
Landau lamented Kiryat Shmona’s missed opportunities in Slovakia.
“We played nicely in the first leg, but we weren’t effective,” he noted. “We will have to do far better in that department on Tuesday.
“In Zilina our target was to control the pace of the match and we can’t afford to be too adventurous at home either.
“We will want to attack but we must do so in a clever manner.”
Kiryat Shmona will also be looking to prove all its local doubters wrong after there were many question marks raised regarding its chances of success in Europe following its stunning championship triumph last season.
“Since I took over the reins I have seen passion and desire from the players,” said Landau, who replaced Ran Ben-Shimon this summer.
“The squad wants to build on what it achieved last season and show that it wasn’t just a miracle.”
The first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round will already be played next week, with Kiryat Shmona already knowing who its opponent will likely be should it overcome Zilina.
Kiryat Shmona was drawn on Friday to face the winner of the tie between Azerbaijan’s Neftci PFK and Georgia’s FC Zestafoni.
Neftci takes a 3-0 lead into the second leg on Tuesday.
However, Kiryat Shmona will not be thinking that far just yet, with its entire continental campaign on the line on Tuesday.
A berth in the third qualifying round will at least guarantee Kiryat Shmona a place in the Europa League playoffs, while reaching the Champions League playoffs with a victory over Zilina followed by another triumph will book the northerners – at the very least – a place in the Europa League group stage.
“We couldn’t score in the first leg but we played well,” said midfielder David Solari.
“That gives us belief that we can record the result we need to progress at home.”