Maccabi Haifa defeated Hamrun Spartans 4-0 thanks to a brace by Frantzdy Pierrot bagged a brace in the first leg of first round UEFA Champions League qualifying. However, the match was overshadowed by the extra curricular activity from the fans in the stands as Haifa supporters threw flares onto the pitch which may cause UEFA to levy a penalty on the club by not allowing away fans at the next match. In addition, there was chaos between the two sets of supporters as reports indicated that things were thrown at each other and provocative statements were made.
Back on the field of play, the greens controlled the pace of play throughout the encounter and scored a pair of goals late in the first half via Peirrot who headed home a Dia Saba corner kick as well as Dean David who put away a Tjaron Chery pass to go up 2-0 at the break. Pierrot then added his second goal of the game after a lengthy break in the action and Anan Khalaili slotted the ball home after due to the conflict between the fans to wrap up the win.
The second leg is slated to be played back in Israel next Tuesday at Sammy Ofer Stadium at 8pm as the Greens will look to complete get sweep and move into the second round where Mesay Dego’s squad will face the winner of Farul Constanța from Romania or Sheriff Tiraspol who play in the Moldovan League.
“This was a convincing victory,” Haifa’s new head coach Mesay Dego said following the game. “There is still another half to play at Samy Ofer Stadium and we’ve waited along time to see our fans again. Even though we won by a large score line , it’s important for us not to come into the next game complacent as we need to finish the job next week. I told the players before the game that those who will play on such a synthetic pitch can only understand how difficult it is, it’s like playing three games in one day. We will now have to keep working hard and stay modest as we have a very good team.”
The Man of the Match, Frantzdy Pierrot also reflected on the win, “This was a great effort that the team put in, but it’s still not done. They will come into our stadium for the next game and we must keep up our energy.”
Maccabi Haifa management had sent numerous updates and messages prior to the game to the fans that would be in Malta to not light and or throw any flares at the match due to the conditional penalty that UEFA could enforce in the future. However, despite the warnings the supporters lit and tossed them in any case onto the synthetic pitch and in fact burnt a hole into the field of play.
After a short delay, Haifa continued to control the pace of play and scored two goals right at the end of the first half from Pierrot and David for a 2-0 lead as the sides headed into the break.
Ten minutes into the second half an outbreak of violence took place in the stands between the two sets of supporters as images that were picked up showed projectiles and drinks being tossed as well as the separation barriers even being moved from their place. The Hamrun fans used provocative statements including the yelling of “Palestine” at the Green supporters which resulted in a flare that landed in the local fans section having most probably been thrown from the Haifa stands.
Maccabi Haifa players begged the fans to stop as they were in front 2-0 at the time, but the referee decided to stop the game and have the players leave the pitch in what was a delay of close to 45 minutes.
When the game finally restarted, the Greens made a number of wholesale substitutions that saw Lior Refaelov make his return to Israeli soccer after many years in Belgium along with the insertion of some of the youth national team, stars from this past summer including Anan Khalaili, and Hamza Shibli. With renewed energy on the pitch, Pierrot added his second goal of the game off of an Abdoulaye Seck ball while Khalaili found the back of the net as well to polish off the victory.
Following the game, reports indicated that Red Bull Salzburg will initiate the buyout option on Anan Khalaili’s contract and have him join fellow Israeli Oscar Gloukh in Austria.