Mac Haifa clinches CL advancement

Greens drop second leg in Bosnia, 3-2, still claim 7-4 aggregate victory over Borac.

Maccabi Haifa 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Haifa 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Haifa may have completed its progression to the third qualifying round of the Champions League on Wednesday night, but coach Elisha Levy was left with plenty to ponder after seeing his team drop to a humbling 3-2 defeat at Bosnia’s FK Borac Banja Luka.
Last week’s 5-1 victory in the first leg at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium ensured that Haifa was never in any real danger of being knocked out on Wednesday.
However, with the first leg of the third qualifying round against Slovenian champion NK Maribor already coming up in six days, Haifa has got little time to find its form and register the improvement needed if it has any intention of advancing to the playoff round and ultimately reaching the group stage for the second time in three years.
The Greens were apathetic and inaccurate from the first whistle, with the hosts pushing forward at every opportunity and exposing Haifa’s defensive frailties time and again.
Maccabi recorded the first chance of the match after eight minutes when Vladimir Dvalishvili’s shot came off the upright, but just a minute later Borac took the lead.
Branislav Krunic was left completely unmarked in the Haifa box and he had little trouble heading the ball past Greens goalkeeper Nir Davidovich.
An early breakthrough was exactly what the Bosnians needed and five minutes later it was only good fortune that saved Haifa from falling two goals behind.
Davidovich dropped a corner kick and Idan Vered had to clear Nemanja Vidakovic’s shot from the line before Krunic inexplicably smashed the rebound off the post instead of tucking it into the back of the net.
Ten minutes later, Haifa was gifted the equalizer.
After a Borac defensive mistake, Vered squared the ball for Dvalishvili, who slid in to score a goal which should have put the tie to rest.
However, to its credit, Banja Luka never stopped fighting, and in the 34th minute it regained the lead.
Haifa’s hapless defense couldn’t clear the danger and Krunic’s shot from the center of the box slipped through Davidovich’s hands and slid in between his legs for what is surely one of the more embarrassing goals he has conceded in his career.
Haifa was lucky not to find itself two goals down at the break, with Vidakovic somehow sending his shot well high from five meters out with Davidovich on his knees after saving a long range effort.
The visitors finally showed some urgency at the start of the second half and eight minutes after the break they clinched the tie once and for all.
Eyal Golasa found Wiyam Amashe with a delightful ball, and after shaking a defender, the striker crossed for Dvalishvili, who for the second time in the match completed the simple task of tucking the ball into an empty net.
However, Haifa’s defense continued its shocking display in the 84th minute, with Vidakovic being left all alone in the center of the box to score a deserved, albeit meaningless, winner for Borac.