Soccer / Champions League / Kiryat Shmona Miss Their Mark in Minsk

BATE Borisov beat Israeli champion 2-0, leave slim hope for return leg; Matovic out of return leg after red card.

Ironi Kiryat Shmona's hopes of reaching the Champions League group stage are still alive, but only just. By rights, Gili Landau's charges should have conceded more than one goal in the first half when they were grossly outplayed, but were unlucky to concede in the second, when they saw much more of the ball. Then again, Shimon Abuhatzeira had two glorious chances to score that elusive away goal in the first half. Still, the 0-2 scoreline makes Kiryat Shmona's mission in the return leg next week hard, but not impossible.

The opening stages were dominated by the home team, and after 10 minutes goalkeeper Danny Amos had to pull off a world-class save from a Dmitry Likhtarovich free kick to keep the score even. Kiryat Shmona's Dusan Matovic had a good chance five minutes later to grab a precious away goal, but his shot from the right went high up into the stands. Laszlo Lencse tried a weak shot from outside the box two minutes later that never troubled the goalkeeper.

Amos was in the center of events again and while he found it easy to collect a lame shot in the 16th minute, he had to be at his best again at 19 minutes to push Alexander Hleb's shot to the bar. The crosses and corners were coming fast and thick, and it seemed to be only a matter of time before the home team got on the scoreboard.

It happened in the 29th minute. A swift attack found Vitally Rodionov in the center of the box and he wasted no time spinning around a shot through Shir Tzedek's legs into Amos' right corner. Hleb continued to cause all sorts of problems for Kiryat Shmona's defense, which found it almost impossible to handle the Borisov onslaught. At this stage, the Israeli champion could hardly muster three consecutive passes, and seldom ventured into the home team's half. In the 39th minute Prodoleski found himself alone, and with time in the box, but Amos again proved he was the only Israeli player to rise to the occasion in the first half, and pulled yet another brilliant save.

Shimon Abuhatzeira had a glorious chance to equalize, but BATE goalkeeper Andery Scharbakow demonstrated that he, too, could thwart strikers in one-on-one situations. The game evened up toward the half-time whistle, and Abuhatzeira squandered yet another wonderful chance before half-time.

Kiryat Shmona improved in the second half, and at moments showed glimpses of the form that earned them the Israeli title last season, but were guilty of over-elaboration on the edge of the box. Referee Harold Webb awarded Kiryat Shmona a free kick in the 68th minute, and Salah Hasarma's shot had the power but went wide. Adrian Rochet was seeing more of the ball, and Barak Badash's introduction gave the Israeli champion a chance to exploit BATE's weakness, but then Matovic was guilty of a dubious foul, and saw a second yellow and a red card, which left the Israeli champion with ten players for the last 20 minutes. Matovic will also miss the return leg.

The Serbian's dismissal breathed new life into BATE's players, who began to believe they might score that crucial second goal.

It came seven minutes after the sending off. A Kiryat Shmona attack was broken up, and Alyaksandr Valadzko sent a brilliant through ball for Rodionov to run some 20 meters and finish beautifully, with the ball rolling in from the post. A third almost arrived three minutes later, when Hleb masterminded an intriguing move, but Amos was quick to exploit Hleb's last-moment hesitation and collect the ball.

Still before the return leg next week, the Israeli champion opens the local league with an interesting encounter against Beitar Jerusalem. It should be somewhat easier that the night out in Minsk.