Soccer / Austrian Press Gores 'Bulls Without Horns'

Since its 2-1 home loss to Maccabi Haifa in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League qualifier, Red Bull Salzburg and its coach Huub Stevens have been relentlessly skewered by the Austrian press.

"Without the keeper, [Eddie] Gustafsson, Salzburg would have gone into halftime with a deficit of three goals at least," wrote a columnist for the newspaper Kronenzeitung.

"The Israeli champion was stronger, fresher and full of offensive ideas - everything that was lacking with the Bulls. Haifa won deservedly, and now we can only pray ahead of the return leg," the columnist wrote.

The paper trashed the home side as "Bulls without horns," and called its chances of advancing to the group stage "exceedingly slim."

Another daily, Kurier, reserved still harsher words for the home side. "Red Bull? Harmless, pathetic, lacking minimal talent."

Yesterday, Stevens took the opportunity to fight back at what he described as his team's unfair treatment in the local press. "I never said we'd win 5-0. People here said all kinds of things that don't match reality," the Dutchman said.

Referring to Salzburg's previous qualifier opponent, he said, "I said Haifa was better than Dinamo Zagreb, but now I'm saying they're not just better, but much better."

"Haifa is unbelievably strong," reacted defender Franz Schiemer after the match.

Veteran back Milan Dudic was more optimistic, saying, "2-0 away is definitely a possibility, and not just wild imagination."

But Stevens' tone was decidedly pessimistic: "The odds are 70-30 against us. Miracles can happen, but not necessarily every time."