Soccer / Europa League / 2 out of 3 ain't bad
Maccabi, Hapoel Tel Aviv in; Bnei Yehuda out.
Maccabi Tel Aviv decimated its Bosnian opponent to advance to the Europa League playoffs yesterday, while Hapoel Tel Aviv backed in and Bnei Yehuda fell apart, leaving two teams in the competition.
Maccabi Tel Aviv, building on a 2-0 advantage from Sarajevo last week, did not sit on its laurels as it blanked Zeljeznicar 6-0. Robert Colautti got things going with a goal in the 18th minute. Rafi Dahan scored in the 38th minute, and Colautti added another just before halftime. Eliran Atar scored a brace in the second half, which sandwiched an own goal by Vernes Selimovic.
Bnei Yehuda perhaps did not deserve to suffer a 3-0 defeat in Helsingborg - the team played well enough to earn at least one away goal - but the team paid dearly for the defensive strategy it displayed during the match's first hour. Although the 1-0 advantage from the first leg win in Bloomfield was quickly erased, Bnei Yehuda did not push forward until it conceded a second goal.
Only then did the Israelis discover they could create scoring opportunities - and it was too late. Bnei Yehuda's inability to cope with the Swedish mind-set is an age-old ailment of Israeli soccer, particularly against Scandinavian clubs.
Ignoring opponents like Dan Mori within five meters of the goal just three minutes in the game was symptomatic. Mori punished Bnei Yehuda by feeding Mattias Lindstrom for Helsingborg's first goal. Lindstrom also scored Helsingborg's final goal of the match in the 74th minute.
Perhaps Bnei Yehuda blew its chance to advance when it failed to push harder last week in Bloomfield, when its Swedish opponents were withering in the Mediterranean heat, for another goal or two.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, which had won 4-0 last week at home, blitzed Vaduz before taking things easier and settling for a 2-1 loss. Omer Damari struck with a first minute goal to earn Hapoel a valuable away goal before putting to bed any doubt that the team would have a monumental collapse and not advance to the playoffs.