The UEFA Champions League will return to the Middle East for the first time in seven years with Israel’s Maccabi Haifa into the group stages after edging out Red Star Belgrade of Serbia.
Portuguese giants SL Benfica and Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen also made it through on a night of drama in Europe with more to follow on Wednesday as the play-offs reach their climax.
In the Champions Path, Maccabi led 3-2 from the first leg in Israel with Frantzdy Pierrot scoring twice, Dolev Hazizia providing three assists and Tjaronn Chery’s superb strike clinching the win after Aleksandar Pesic and Guelor Kanga’s goals for the Serbs had threatened an away win.
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It was another memorable night on Tuesday in Belgrade with Pesic and Mirko Ivanic giving the hosts a comfortable lead only for Daniel Sundgren to level the tie and Milan Pavkov‘s dramatic own goal sealing the tie for the visitors as extra time loomed.
After a goalless opening leg in Azerbaijan, Viktoria Plzen edged Qarabag 2-1 with Jan Kopic and Jan Kliment‘s goals canceling out Philip Ozobic’s opener as the tie took time to get going before finally catching fire in the Czech Republic.
As for the League Path, Benfica already led Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 from leg one after Gilberto Junior and Goncalo Ramos goals in Poland and the Portuguese added three to their advantage before half-time in the second leg with Nicolas Otamendi, Rafa Silva and David Neres all on target in the space of 15 minutes in Lisbon.
Tuesday was just the appetizer for Wednesday with plenty coming up in both the Champions Path and the League Path with Danes FC Copenhagen holding a narrow 2-1 advantage over Turkish giants Trabzonspor and Norway’s Bodo/Glimt 1-0 up on Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia. You can catch all the action on Paramount+.
Most eyes will be on Scottish outfit Rangers and Dutch side PSV Eindhoven after last week’s pulsating 2-2 draw which could quite easily produce second leg drama and might well go beyond the 90 minutes in the Netherlands as was the case against AS Monaco of Ligue 1 in France.