Mac TA eyes end to continental road slump

Maccabi Tel Aviv takes a 3-1 lead into its second leg of the Europa League second qualifying round at Xäzär Länkäran FK.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Tel Aviv takes a 3-1 lead into its second leg of the Europa League second qualifying round at Xäzär Länkäran FK of Azerbaijan on Thursday night.
But considering its recent record away from home in continental competitions, the yellowand- blue is taking nothing for granted ahead of the return leg.
Maccabi has lost nine straight road games in Europe going back to 2004, when it defeated PAOK of Thessaloniki in Champions League qualifying.
While some of those defeats were to Bayern Munich, Juventus and Ajax, Tel Aviv has also found itself on the losing end in matches against the likes of Santa Coloma of Andorra, Erciyesspor of Turkey and FK Mogren of Montenegro last season.
Maccabi showed itself to be clearly superior to Lankaran by taking a 3-0 lead in the 43rd minute of the first leg.
However, Xazar’s away goal three minutes later seriously complicated Tel Aviv’s situation, and Mircea Rednic’s multinational squad, which includes among others three Brazilians and four Romanians, will not go down without a fight.
“I felt we could have done better in the first leg because we missed chances to increase the margin,” Maccabi coach Moti Ivanir said ahead of the second leg.
“If we had recorded a better score we would have been more confident ahead of the second leg. But we are still confident in the knowledge that we are a better team and that we can win in Azerbaijan. It won’t be easy. They are quite a good team.
“But we aren’t entering the match simply planning to defend. We will be shooting ourselves in the foot if we do that. We need to score to make them understand that they’ve got no hope.”
Maccabi has had to deal with a series of departures in recent days, with Dor Malul leaving for Beerschot AC of Belgium, Tamir Kahlon training with Poland’s Legia Warsaw and Maor Buzaglo on his way to the continent.
There were also reports that star striker Eliran Atar was set to make a four million-euro move to Portuguese giant Porto.
However, Tel Aviv denied it has any intention of selling Atar and the story in Portuguese paper A Bola was labeled as a “lie” on Porto’s official website, with the club also saying that “Eliran Atar is not and will not be a player of FC Porto”.
Nevertheless, Ivanir feels that he could use a couple of more players to strengthen his squad.
“We are facing a long season and players like Malul and Kahlon, who we assumed would be at the club, have left.
I spoke to the chairman about adding one or two players and he said it would be considered,” Ivanir said. “If I want more players it is only because I want the club to succeed.”
Should Maccabi complete its progress on Thursday it will next face the winner of the tie between FK Zeljeznicar of Bosnia and FC Sheriff of Moldova.
Zeljeznicar defeated Sheriff 1- 0 at home in the first leg.
Also Thursday, Bnei Yehuda should have little trouble advancing to the third qualifying round when it hosts UE Sant Julià of Andorra after claiming a 2-0 win in the first leg.
However, Bnei Yehuda’s next opponent is set to be far more challenging, with Yossi Abuksis’s men being drawn to play Helsingborgs IF of Sweden.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which enters the competition in the third qualifying round, will learn Thursday who it faces next week, with FK Vojvodina of Serbia a clear favorite to secure its progress when it hosts Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz after claiming a 2-0 road victory in the first leg.