Mac Haifa holds on to beat Genk 2-1

Greens will advance to group stage by avoiding defeat next week in Belgium 2nd-leg.

MACCABI HAIFA’S Eyal Golasa311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
MACCABI HAIFA’S Eyal Golasa311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Haifa will have the edge entering next week’s Champions League playoffs second leg at KRC Genk after recording a 2-1 victory at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Wednesday night.
Haifa dominated the first half and could have well led by more than the two goals scored by Wiyam Amashe (8) and Vladimir Dvalishvili (28).
However, Genk, which looked helpless in the first half, was the better team after the break, and Elyaniv Barda’s goal in the 61st minute ensured the tie remained wide open ahead of next Tuesday’s return leg in Belgium from which only one team will advance to the Champions League group stage.
Genk had the better of the early exchanges but it wasn’t long before Haifa seized control.
The Greens pressured Genk by not allowing the Belgians to develop a passing game and their dominance in possession soon translated into a goal.
Eyal Meshumar’s accurate long ball from the right flank was expertly brought down by Amashe and his cool finish in front of goal gave Haifa the opener after eight minutes.
Haifa continued to push forward after getting off to an ideal start and for large periods of the first half was completely outplaying Genk.
Elisha Levy’s team was unlucky not to double its lead after 17 minutes, with Dvalishvili’s free kick from the edge of the area taking a deflection and smashing off the crossbar.
Genk’s Israeli striker Barda saw very little of the ball, but he should have equalized in the 21st minute when his weak effort from five meters out was cleared by the Haifa defense.
Seven minutes later, the hosts scored the second goal they deserved.
After a swift team move, Eyal Golasa crossed the ball to perfection from the right and Dvalishvili slid in to score his fourth goal in five Champions League qualifiers.
Haifa could have well increased its lead by the break, with Amashe squandering a golden opportunity from two meters out in the 30th minute and Idan Vered shooting wide from a great position four minutes later.
The hosts did have to survive one scary moment four minutes before the interval, with goalkeeper Nir Davidovich diving superbly to save Daniel Tozser’s deflected effort.
Haifa remained in control at the start of the second half and Seidu Yahaya’s powerful shot from 20 meters out after 61 minutes was only denied by a good Laszlo Koteles save.
Just moments later, however, Haifa’s defense was caught napping and Genk scored the away goal it so desperately desired.
Davidovich did well to save Kennedy Nwanganga initial effort, but there was nothing he could do to keep out Barda’s shot from close range.
Barda’s goal completely deflated the Greens and by the end of the match Haifa was happy just to hold on to its slender lead.
Jelle Vossen shot just wide for Genk in the 69th minute, but despite controlling the remainder of the encounter, the Belgians couldn’t beat Davidovich, who ensured Haifa won with a sensational save three minutes from time.
In Wednesday’s other first-leg playoff match-ups, Bayern Munich beat Zurich 2- 0, Dinamo Zagreb topped Malmo FF 4-1, OB Odense edged Villareal 1-0 and Wisla Krakow blanked APOEL Nicosia 1-0.