UEFA CUP: Maccabi TA up against the wall

Eli Cohen's team faces Andorran minnows in second leg of qualifier tonight.

cohen 88 (photo credit: )
cohen 88
(photo credit: )
Maccabi Tel Aviv will need to beat Andorran side Santa Coloma by two clear goals on Thursday if it is to avoid one of the most embarrassing days in its history. Tel Aviv lost 1-0 in the first leg of the UEFA Cup first qualifying round two weeks ago and can force extra time with a victory by an identical score line at Bloomfield. The team, however, will be eager to finish off the tie long before the final whistle is sounded in the hope that a big win will help erase the humiliation it suffered a fortnight ago. Santa Coloma, a team made up of amateur players, made local history by defeating Maccabi, becoming the first Andorran club to win a game against European competition since the Andorran Football Association joined UEFA in 1996. "The first leg was very disappointing and we didn't get the job done," Tel Aviv coach Eli Cohen said on Wednesday. "Hopefully we can score an early goal on Thursday as we need to win by two goals. A quick goal will also help relax the players and give them confidence." Maccabi will once again be without new keeper Dragoslav Jevric and last season's Premier League top scorer Yaniv Azran, after the team failed to inform UEFA of the transfers before the deadline date of July 10. Yossi Shivhon, who missed the first leg through injury, will be in the starting lineup on Thursday and Cohen believes his return could prove to be crucial. "We missed Shivhon in the first leg," he said. "We need his technique and scoring ability. Together with Nimni he can create scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself." Shivhon said: "I hope to help the side claim the win and believe we will advance. We are confident and we want to get this monkey off our back." Sanata Coloma coach Vicente Marques, who spent Wednesday in Jerusalem with his players, knows what to expect at Bloomfield. "Maccabi Tel Aviv will push forward with all its players and try and score in the first 20 minutes of the match," he said. "We will try to deny them an early goal and hopefully surprise them on the break. "Advancing to the next round would be my greatest moment as a coach. Even though it played poorly in the first leg, Maccabi is still a much better side." Julia Fernandez, who scored his sides winner two weeks ago and Andorra's goal in his country's 4-1 defeat by Israel in a Euro 2008 qualifier last September, did not appear to be overly confident ahead of the match. "Our chances are slim. No team from Andorra has ever advanced in European competition and it would be a Cinderella story if we manage to achieve that," he said. "The last two weeks have been the best of my career," he added. "We will try and repeat our performance from Andorra, but I believe Maccabi will play differently from the way it did in the first leg. Maccabi will raise its level at home in front of its fans." Betar returns in positive mood Despite losing 1-0 to FC Copenhagen in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round on Tuesday night, Betar Jerusalem's players were in an optimistic mood on their return to Israel on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the team's players avoided the media and left Ben-Gurion Airport without speaking to the press. Barak Itzhaki, however, agreed to say a few words. "I think we recorded a good result," he said. "We played very well. I think that our chances of realizing our Champions League dream are good." Yoav Ziv, who was one of Betar's better players on Tuesday night, said: "I think that at Teddy we should play with the same intensity as we did in Copenhagen. "We will, however, have to score a goal, but I have no doubt that we can do so."