Soccer / All Eyes on the Draw

Having brushed aside Glentoran 6-0 at Kiryat Eliezer in the first leg of its Champions League second round qualifier, Maccabi Haifa can safely turn its attention to this afternoon's third qualifying round draw, to be held in Switzerland at 1 P.M. Israel time.

Although Haifa is one of the round's ranked sides, it can still draw potentially difficult opposition, such as Austria's Red Bull Salzburg, Debreceni VSC of Hungary, Norway's Stabaek or Kazakh champion Aktobe.

Haifa will take heart from Wednesday night's drubbing of the Northern Ireland champion. Lior Rafaelov put Maccabi in front after 36 minutes, Yaniv Katan doubled the lead seven minutes after the break and Vladimir Dvalishvili scored the third five minutes later. The hosts added three late goals as the Irishmen ran out of steam, through Dvalishvili (81), Shlomi Arbeitman (83) and Mohamed Shahbary (89), making next Wednesday's return leg at the Oval a mere formality.

At 2:30 P.M. today, EUFA officials will hold the draw for the new Europa League's third qualifying round, which will comprise seven groups of ten teams apiece - five ranked and five unranked. Hapoel Tel Aviv, as one of the ranked teams in Group 2, can expect relatively easy opponents, but Israel's two unranked wannabe qualifiers, Bnei Yehuda (Group 6) and Maccabi Netanya (Group 7), will face a more daunting fixture list - if they reach that stage.

Bnei Yehuda cruised to a 4-0 lead over FC Dinaburg of Latvia last night in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie, through two goals from Pedro Galvan, and one apiece from Dean Mori and Liroy Zhairi. Netanya has to overcome Sliema Wanderers at home next week, after a goalless first leg in Malta.