A moment before being relegated to Europe’s second-tier competition, Israeli champion Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday tried to make some kind of a stand against Celtic, which is being hosted in Turner Stadium with a 5-2 advantage form the first leg of their Champions League second qualifying round playoff.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva won the second leg 2-0, but will still be relegated as it trails 4-5 on aggregate.
Be’er Sheva was again without its injured captain, Elyaniv Barda. Miguel Vitor and John Ogu, who were in doubtful condition, recovered enough to start on Tuesday.
The team got on the board in the 21st minute. An excellent corner kick by Maharan Radi found the head of Ben Sahar, who had two minutes earlier replaced the injured Lucio Maranhao. His first contact with the ball flew into the corner of the goal for a well-earned 1-0 lead.
Sahar almost made it 2-0 five minutes later when he fielded the ball on a pass deep in Celtic territory, but the angle from 10 meters was too difficult for him to connect.
Be’er Sheva doubled its lead just three minutes into the second half, when Celtic made a fatal mistake on defense. Saidy Janko ran into goalkeeper Craig Gordon, allowing Be’er Sheva’s Ovidiu Hoban to score from up close.
However, Celtic was able to close in its defense to prevent any further threat to its once-sizeable lead in the aggregate score.
“Everything is possible in soccer. Things have happened before,” Be’er Sheva coach Barak Bachar had before the match. “We will do everything to turn the tables.” They evidently did, but must ultimately prepare for the UEFA Cup after Tuesday’s result.
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