Barda back to haunt Haifa
Elyaniv Barda used to be a hero in Haifa. Now the Israel star could be the man to deprive his former club of a Champions League place.
Having won two league titles with Maccabi Haifa between 2003-5, Barda dealt his former team-mates a massive blow after netting a crucial away goal in Wednesday’s first leg for Belgian champions Genk.The 29-year-old smashed home a 61st minute effort to reduce the deficit to 2-1 after Haifa had threatened to run riot in the first-half.
Maccabi will now have their work cut in Belgium next week, despite Genk facing the prospect of starting the game without a full-time manager.
Boss Franky Vercauteren has signed a lucrative deal with United Arab Emirates club Al Jazira and is unlikely to be in charge.
Haifa will hope they can pull off a repeat performance of their early display, when they dominated Genk with some fast and flowing one-touch football.
Elisha Levi’s side got off to the perfect start.
Genk were left shellshocked as inform strike duo Weeam Amasha and Vladimir Dvalishvili ran them ragged, with both netting inside the halfhour.
Amasha’s eighth minute opener — his fourth of the qualifying campaign — looked to have set the tone for the evening as the home side roared out of the traps.
Dvalishvili then smashed the crossbar with a rasping free-kick before doubling Haifa’s advantage, turning home Eyal Golasa’s pinpoint cross.
As the Greens pressed forward in search of a third, Amasha and Golasa both wasted decent opportunities.
Those misses were to prove crucial as old boy Barda wriggled free of the Haifa defence to fire a crucial away goal just past the hour mark.
It reflected a markedly improved second-half performance by Genk, who are set to welcome back Chelsea target Kevin de Bruyne for Tuesday’s second leg.
Only a stunning last-gasp save by Nir Davidovitch prevented Kennedy Nwanganga from claiming a dramatic equaliser.
Haifa are expected to have defender Jurica Buljat back from suspension for the second leg. Former Bolton man Tamir Cohen is pushing for a start.