Soccer / Israel's Envoys to Europe / Netanya Tames Maltese Falcon as Bnei Yehuda Soars

Maccabi Netanya blanked Malta's Sleima Wanderers 3-0 yesterday, easing fans' worries of stagnation in Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) play after last week's 0-0 draw in the first leg of their second-round qualifier.

Netanya waited patiently until the 56th minute to light up the scoreboard at Tel Aviv's Bloomfield stadium, when Maoz Samya broke the deadlock with a juggling act through the Maltese defenders assembled in the penalty box. Chen Ezra and Ahmed Saba'a added goals in the final ten minutes to seal the deal.

Netanya's next opponent will be Turkey's Galatasaray, led by former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, with 17 Turkish championships under its belt and a UEFA Cup trophy from 2000.

Earlier yesterday, Bnei Yehuda put away Dinaburg FC 1-0 their second-round qualifier in the Latvian city, after beating the club 4-0 in last week's first leg. Pedro Galvan set up Eliran Atar for the game's lone goal in the 32nd.

"We came here at the peak of concentration and I'm happy we advanced to the next stage," said captain Assi Baldout. The orange-clad squad from south Tel Aviv will now face the winner between Pacos of Portugal and Moldova's Zimbru Chisinau.

Sweden again braces for Israeli visitor

Police in the Swedish city of Gothenburg are preparing to bolster their presence ahead of Thursday's Europa League qualifier between Swedish league leader IFK Goteborg and Hapoel Tel Aviv. A local pro-Palestinian group has announced that it intends to hold a demonstration outside the stadium to protest the Israeli team's presence.

Police fear not only disturbances on the part of protesters, but clashes between them and Gothenburg fans, who do not look kindly on attempts to wage a pitched political battle on their home pitch. The club's management has already rejected the group's calls to boycott the match against Hapoel "due to Israel's policy in Palestine."

In March the Swedish city of Malmo barred fans from attending the Israel-Sweden Davis Cup tennis tie out of safety concerns in the wake of Israel's Gaza offensive. The Swedish tennis federation was fined $25,000 and the city of Malmo banned from hosting Davis Cup matches for five years in response to the lockout.

Meanwhile, Maccabi Haifa returned last night from Belfast with a rock-solid 9-0 aggregate win over Glentoran in their UEFA Champions League second-round qualifier. The Greens must now begin training for their next opponent, Kazakh champion Aktobe.

Haifa's veteran forward Yaniv Katan sat out the rout with stomach pains, but is expected to return today to regular practice.

Representatives of midfielder Biram Kiyal are reporting that the 21-year-old's price tag for prospective European teams stands at around $1.5 million. Kiyal has made it clear to his agents that he seeks greener pitches in Europe, and feels he is prepared mentally and physically to launch a career abroad.