Soccer / Champions League qualifier / Kiryat Shmona dumps Zilina
Israeli champions score twice in seven minutes.
For 70 long minutes, it seemed that this just wasn't Kiryat Shmona's lucky day. With a place in the third round of the Champions League qualifying stages at stake, and playing against lowly MSK Zilina, the Israeli champions huffed and puffed, but just couldn't manage to blow the Slovakian defense down.
Playing at Kiryat Eliezer, with a one-goal deficit from the first leg, the Israeli forwards were having an abysmal day. Shimon Abuhatzira managed to miss two glorious chances in the first five minutes, on two brilliant Barak Badash through balls, while Salah Hasarma followed suit by failing to make contact with a sweet cross. Adrian Rochet then made a mess of yet another glorious chance.
Zilina's players continued to be mere spectators 26 minutes into the game, when David Solari spurned yet another chance to put Gili Landau's team in the lead. The Slovaks were content to sit back in their own half and try to run the clock down, thereby clinging to their lead.
The second half spelled even more frustration for the northern stars: Solari tried two shots that were miserably off-target before feeding one to Hasarma, who rattled the crossbar in the 63rd minute.
Six minutes later, Landau pulled out Rochet and sent in Ahmed Abed, who ultimately had a profound effect on the game. Barely a minute later, El'ad Gabai sent a low cross into the congested box. But before Abed could make contact, defender Vladimir Leitner flicked the ball into his own goal. Cue wild celebrations in the stands.
Leitner's evening went from bad to worse seven minutes later, when he was caught out in possession by Abed, who freed Abuhatzira to the right of the box. The striker made no mistake this time, firing a low shot into the left corner.
From then on, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Zilina finally tried to venture into the Israeli half, but its efforts were tame at best.
Kiryat Shmona will face Azerbaijan champions Neftchi Baku in the next round, next Tuesday at Kiryat Eliezer. Hopefully, the Israeli strikers will have found their form by then.