By Mikael Erävuori in the Pohjola stadium
Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC returned to Israel with a goalless draw after withstanding the pressure from HJK Helsinki in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round tie.
HJK gradually took control of the early exchanges after a nervous opening and Vili Savolainen had the first shot on six minutes, missing the target from outside the area. Maccabi responded with Eli Biton heading over from a corner.
Reis-Lino goes close
Another Maccabi corner saw Bruno Reis-Lino hit the crossbar with a header and his shot from the rebound was cleared off the line. HJK learnt from that scare, and in the last 15 minutes of the half Ridvan Zeneli on the right wing gave Maccabi several worries, but Liran Strauber in the Israeli side's goal was equal to anything sent his way.
The home team continued their dominance after the break and five minutes into the half Petri Oravainen led a counterattack which ended when Tommi Grönlund shot just wide from long range. Just before the hour Reoven Oved sent a clever chip over both HJK goalkeeper Andras Vilnrotter and the crossbar.
At the other end Maccabi were holding on well, and although they picked up five yellow cards from Russian referee Alexey Tiumin, they defended stoutly and kept key HJK forward Mika Kottila subdued.
Visiting coach Nir Klinger, whose side welcome HJK to the Bloomfield stadium next Wednesday for the return, said: "We did not play that badly as they did not surprise us at all with the way in which they played. We could have scored an away goal but struck the woodwork twice. I am confident we can beat them at Bloomfield next week and book our place in the draw for the third qualifying round."
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