Soccer: Israeli clubs look to advance in UEFA Cup

Hapoel Tel Aviv, Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Netanya all look to win second-leg matches versus European opponents.

hapoel TA soccer 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
hapoel TA soccer 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Three Israeli clubs will be looking for victories this evening in their quest to advance in UEFA Cup action. Hapoel Tel Aviv, Kiryat Shmona and Maccabi Netanya will all be playing the second leg of home-and-home contests versus European foes in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup, with the winners advancing to the first round of the main tournament itself. Hapoel Tel Aviv will be hosting FC Vojvodina from Novi Sad, Serbia at 7 p.m. at Bloomfield Stadium. Hapoel and Vojvodina, the oldest club in the Serbian Elite League, played to a 0-0 draw in Novi Sad two weeks ago. In that affair, Vojvodina constantly pressured the visiting Hapoel team and, but for the heroics of Tel Aviv goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, the outcome could have been much different. "The Hapoel defense was excellent and their fantastic keeper stood on his head," Vojvodina coach Dragolijub Bekvalac exclaimed. "The Serbian club was very dominant in the first match and we will be ready for this. We have to move the ball quickly. We scored eight goals in Toto Cup play because of quick ball movement from 16 different players," assessed Tel Aviv coach Eli Guttman. "Hapoel Tel Aviv has a history in European competition and because of this we must advance to the next stage for our supporters." Over six thousand fans are expected to be on hand for the match. Kiryat Shmona, a newcomer to European play, will be hosting PFC Litex from Lovech, Bulgaria. The Israeli side will also need a victory to move on in the UEFA Cup tournament after drawing 0-0 away in Bulgaria. Kiryat Shmona will be playing the match in Haifa at Kiryat Eliezer with a 7 p.m. starting time as their local stadium has still not been given the green light after new stands were installed over the summer. "We will advance to the next round," stated a confident Kiryat Shmona coach Michel Dayan. "Anything goes in a game like this, despite Lovech being a higher quality side than ours." Abas Suan, who also played against Lovech in the UEFA Cup while a member of Maccabi Haifa, added, "No one should think that we are coming into this game knowing that we are the better side, but we have a talented squad, and are enjoying this experience and want to move to the next round." Commented midfielder Guy Sarfati: "We are not coming to play a bunker style. We have to remember that this is the first time Kiryat Shmona is in this position, though if we don't advance it would be a disappointment." More than four thousand supporters will be making the trek to Haifa for this historic contest. Maccabi Netanya, under coach Lothar Matthaus, will be on the road in Varna, Bulgaria, facing PFC Cherno More. The first leg finished in a 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv with Netanya conceding an away goal. Maccabi will have to win or draw by at least a score of 2-2 to move on to the next stage. Matthaus will need inspired play from all of his men, including Francis Kioyo who scored Netanya's lone goal in the last match. "So what if we gave up an away goal? Why can't we score one against them. The second leg is always more important than the first," Matthaus contended. "Look at Betar in Champions League play. The first game they won at home 2-1 and then they gave up five goals in Poland." Two hundred very loyal Netanya fans are expected to be at the game, which is being played at Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia.