Tel Aviv in ecstasy while Haifa agonizes

Mac TA shocks Olympiacos at Bloomfield; Greens fail to advance in Minsk.

Maccabi Tel Aviv 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Maccabi Tel Aviv 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Maccabi Tel Aviv recorded one of the biggest upsets in its history on Thursday night, while Maccabi Haifa was sent packing in humbling fashion.
After losing 2-1 to Olympiacos in the first leg of the Europa League third qualifying round last week, Tel Aviv knew it needed a slender 1-0 victory at Bloomfield Stadium to advance, and it got exactly that to knock out the Greek giant.
Roberto Colautti scored the only goal of the match in the 42nd minute and the yellowand- blue held off their illustrious opponents to clinch their place in the playoff round.
The draw for the playoff round will take place in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, with the two-legged tie to be played on August 19 and 26.
“We knew that if we prepared and studied and played tactically sound, we would be able to achieve what seemed so impossible a week ago,” Maccabi coach Yossi Mizrahi said. “I told the players, ‘we won’t back down against Olympiacos,’ especially not in our house, and we didn’t disappoint.”
Haifa was a firm favorite to advance in Belarus after its 1- 0 victory in the first leg at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium, especially after Vladimir Dvalishvili (27) scored the opener on Thursday night.
However, Minsk would equalize before halftime, and after moving ahead at the start of the second half, clinched the tie in the 90th minute thanks to Anton Putilo’s goal, breaking Haifa hearts, which have yet to recover from the painful ending to last season’s Premier League title race.
“We had the lead and we lost it because we didn’t play well enough or smart enough,” said Haifa coach Elisha Levy, who will be ruing his team’s many misses in the first leg. “After the second goal will lost our composure and we have got plenty of work to do.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv 1, Olympiacos 0 (2-2 on aggregate, Maccabi Tel Aviv advances on away goals) Tel Aviv, which has disappointed in Europe time and again since reaching the Champions League group stage in the 2004/05 season, opened with a lot of excitement, but there was little substance to its surges forward.
Colautti registered Maccabi’s first attempt on goal four minutes into the encounter, but his header sailed well over goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidi.
While the hosts were at least trying to go forward, Olympiacos was more than content to soak up the pressure and try and hit the yellow-and-blue on the break.
The Greeks’ game-plan seemed to be working for the first 30 minutes of the match, but Maccabi seized control in the final third of the first half.
In the 30th minute, Haris Medunjanin tested Nikopolidis from 20 meters out and Colautti was very nearly first to the spilled rebound. Four minutes later, Shiran Yeini found himself all alone three meters from goal, but his woeful header was off-target.
Three minutes from the break, however, Tel Aviv would make the breakthrough.
The Greeks’ defense failed to clear the ball and Bloomfield erupted after Colautti scored with a header from five meters out.
Knowing a 1-0 defeat would end its European campaign, Olympiacos began to send more players forward at the start of the second half and it showed immediately.
Six minutes after the interval, Diogo only had the ’keeper to beat, but he sent his shot straight at Liran Strauber.
Two minutes later, Maccabi fans’ hearts skipped a beat once again when Enzo Maresca headed just wide from five meters out.
The visitors continued to dominate the possession in the subsequent minutes, but they lacked a creative touch and after Diogo was sent off in stoppage time for a challenge on Strauber, Tel Aviv clinched the shock victory.
Dinamo Minsk 3, Maccabi Haifa 1 (Minsk wins 3-2 on aggregate) Haifa was confident of progressing after its home win last week and seemed to be well on its way in the 27th minute of the return leg in Belarus.
Dvalishvili passed the challenge of one defender before slotting in the ball from seven meters out.
However, Maccabi’s euphoria would last for only eight minutes.
Goalkeeper Amir Edri, standing in for the injured Nir Davidovich, could do nothing to stop Oleg Strakhanovich shot from outside the box that tied the game.
Nine minutes after the break, Haifa found itself in deep trouble.
Putilo toyed with the Maccabi defense before shooting past Edri to give Minsk the lead.
Thanks to its away goal, a 2- 1 defeat was still enough for Haifa to advance, but the visitors could not hold on.
In the 90th minute, Putilo scored from 25 meters out, piling the misery on a Haifa side still hurting after the end to last season.