Coach Gili Landau was relaxed coming into Kiryat Shmona's second meeting with its Azeri opponent on Wednesday. With a 4-0 aggregate lead from the previous match in Israel, a 2-2 draw against Neftchi Baku sufficed for Kiryat Shmona to get through the Champions League's third qualification round.
The playoff stage begins in two weeks. Kiryat Shmona will learn of its next opponent in tomorrow's draw in Nyon, France.
Landau likely was already thinking about the next stage, even if he never let on. Baku proved no more than a sparring partner for his players, another day of work that one has to get through without incident to return home in good shape.
The Azeris, meanwhile, were looking for a way to save a shred of self-respect from the match. Any hopes of a ticket to the next round were left behind last week on the pitch at Kiryat Eliezer.
Even when goalkeeper Daniel Amos saw the ball fired by Baku's Julius Wobay from 25 meters sail into the net, not a muscle on Landau's face twitched. The clock could continue to wind down quietly, without any pressure. Nothing more dramatic happened during the first half.
Barak Badash took a pass from Adrian Rochet and equalized things five minutes into the second half, putting another nail in the coffin of Neftchi Baku's European season.
Cavid Imamverdiyev gave Baku the lead again in the 76th minute, but Laszlo Lencse refused to let the hosts enjoy the small pleasure of winning the return leg and knocked in Kiryat Shmona's second goal for the draw.
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