Local Soccer: Maccabi Haifa loses to Romanians in Intertoto

Bad finishing and poor defending cost hosts dear, kicking season off to worst possible start.

mac haifa 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
mac haifa 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Haifa's season got off to the worst possible start on Saturday night when the greens were beaten 2-0 by Romanian side FC Gloria Bistrita at Kiryat Eliezer in the UEFA Intertoto Cup second round. Haifa had been hoping to post a positive result ahead of the second game in Romania next week, knowing that the winner of the two-legged tie will play Spanish side Atletico Madrid in the next round. But Maccabi coach Roni Levy left the majority of his first team out of the starting 11 and a combination of bad finishing and poor defending cost the hosts dear. Gloria, which finished sixth in the Romanian league last season, took the lead in the 13th minute through Cosmin Tilinka who slipped past his marker inside the six yard box and turned in a cross from the right hand side past Haifa 'keeper Tom Almadon. Gloria forward Dorel Zaharia came close to making it 2-0 after 32 minutes when he stretched to volley in from close range. But his effort went achingly over the bar. Alain Masudi had Haifa's best chance of the first half with 10 minutes left in the period, latching onto a pinpoint pass from Lior Rafaelov but driving his shot too high. Five minutes later, Zaharia made it 2-0. Sergiu Costea did the groundwork, skipping through the Haifa defence and putting Zaharia through, leaving the striker with just Almadon to beat from inside the penalty area, which he did with ease. Early in the second half Masudi thought he had scored when he chipped the goalkeeper and the ball rolled into the net, only to see his effort ruled offside. Despite continued pressure the host side was unable to break the deadlock throughout the second period. Haifa, which had won the Israeli Premier League four times in the previous five years, finished a disappointing fifth last season. If it manages to defeat Gloria, Maccabi will need to overcome Madrid to be included in the draw for the UEFA Cup second qualifying round. Speaking after the game, Haifa coach Roni Levy said he was "very disappointed" despite the lack of first team regulars in the side. "I always expect Maccabi Haifa to play seriously," he said. It was the first time in six years Haifa has been allowed to play a European game at its home ground. Until last month when UEFA changed its position, all Israeli teams had to play European ties in the Tel Aviv area, excluding a period during the second intifada and in August last year after last summer's war in Lebanon, when no UEFA games were held in Israel.