Beitar Jerusalem fell to PAOK Solinicki 4-1 and were eliminated from UEFA Conference League play in front of close to 30,000 fans at Teddy Stadium in the capital city. The yellow-and-black gave up an early own goal which set the tone, however, the visitors were reduced to ten-men due to a red card for a foul in the box giving the hosts a terrific chance to overcome their opponents. But Yarden Shua’s missed penalty, Brandon’s goal ahead of the break and a pair of late strikes by the Greeks did in Yossi Abukasis’s side.
In front of a packed Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem Beitar Jerusalem looked to take the game right to the visiting PAOK, however, disaster struck early as Edli Gutliv’s back-pass tripped up keeper Miguel Silva and the ball slid into the back of the yellow-and-black goal giving the Greeks a 1-0 lead.
Yossi Abukasis’s team looked to get back into the game and were handed a golden opportunity on a silver platter when Douglas Augusta yanked down Yarden Shua from behind which saw the aforementioned Augusta given a straight red card and Beitar a penalty. As Fred Friday stepped up to take the spot kick, Shua demanded the ball but his attempt was saved by Dominik Kotarski.
PAOK took full advantage of a stunned Beitar as Brandon slotted home the ball to give Razvan Lucescu’s squad a 2-0 lead. With the hosts reeling, Friday gave them hope when he headed home Shua’s pass to cut the lead to 2-1 at halftime.
With a man to the good, Beitar pressed from the outset of the second half to find the equalizer, but Ion Nicolaescu, Dor Micha and Yuval Ashkenazi all missed the target as the hosts couldn’t find a way past PAOK iron curtain. Shua looked to have drawn Beitar even, but his goal was ruled to be offside as the screams of joy turned into dour disappointment.
Abuksis’s team looked to be losing steam when Trazie Thomas knocked the ball into his own goal in the 91st minute to give PAOK a two goal lead and when Greek starlet Ioannis Konstantelias polished off the win with another marker just before the final whistle.
“The strangest things happened in this game,” Beitar coach Yossi Abuksis said. “The last two goals really disappointed me just as the first two goals did as well. But the game was very weird from the get go when the own goal went in. Missing a penalty was critical but we had some great minutes even before they were handed a red card. We tried to draw even but the two goals killed the chance at the end.”
“It was a crazy game but the most important thing was that we fought and won the game,” PAOK coach Razvan Lucescu began. “We passed this stage and qualified for the third round, we were very disciplined and organized. I have lived many experiences and this is another one which was unique but the players left it all on the pitch and finished off the game.”
Maccabi Tel Aviv blanked Petrocub 2-0 in Moldova to win their UEFA Conference League second round qualifying tie by a final score of 5-0 on aggregate. The yellow-and-blue made wholesale changes to their starting lineup after having won the first leg 3-0 in Tel Aviv and saw Parfait Guiagon finally break the ice in the 90th minute while Dor Peretz put in a Roy Revivo rebound to take the victory. Robbie Keane’s team will now prepare to face AEK Larnaca in the third round as the first leg on Thursday will be played in Cyrus.
“I’m always satisfied when we win but I knew this was going to be a tough game,” Keane commented. “It was a good test against a team that we had to get them to open it up which is like the teams we will face in the Israeli league. The most important thing is being patient. You don’t need to score early, football is 90 minutes and the last 8 minutes was exactly as per the game plan with quick play and 2 or 3 touches and we got the goal.”
Roy Revivo who started his first game was all smiles following the match, “In the team meeting before the game Robbie Keane told me I would get a chance. As soon as I saw the starting line-up I wanted the match to start and couldn’t wait for the whistle to be blown. This was my first start and I’ll take that from the contest as well as the chance I had, but I am happy that Dor put the rebound away it away.”
Hapoel Beer Sheva punched their ticket to the third round of the Conference League with a 1-1 draw against Panevezys in Lithuania after having won last week’s first leg 1-0 in Israel. Miguel Vitor headed home the opening goal of the match to give the southern reds a 1-0 lead but Noel Mbo drew his side even in the 79th minute. However, that was as close as the hosts would get as Elyaniv Barda’s team will now take on Levski Sofia with the first leg kicking off on Thursday at the Toto Turner Stadium in Beer Sheva.