By Ofer Ronen-Abels at Bloomfield stadium
A last-gasp goal from substitute Peter Abelsson brought heartbreak for ten-man Maccabi Haifa FC in Israel as Malmö FF edged though to the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round in front of a sell-out 15,000 crowd in Tel-Aviv.
With the Swedish side heading out of the competition on the away-goals rule, the 28-year-old defender was introduced with just five minutes remaining - a final gamble for coach Tom Prahl. And the move paid dividends within three minutes as Abelsson rose to head Malmö into a 5-4 aggregate lead.
Amazingly, it was the fourth time the Swedish team had come from behind in a frenetic tie. Maccabi Haifa twice took the lead in the first leg last Wednesday, but were unable to keep their noses in front as Malmö fought back to take a 3-2 lead to Israel. It took just ten minutes for the home side to cancel that narrow advantage tonight though when Roberto Colautti broke the deadlock.
A slip from veteran goalkeeper Nir Davidovic, fumbling a simple cross, then presented Afonso Alves the simplest of headers to make it 1-1. Both sides had opportunities to score but it was the 54th-minute introduction of Shlomi Arbeitman that proved pivotal. The 20-year-old scored his first goal for the club six minutes later but lasted just ten more minutes before he received a second yellow card for handball.
Nevertheless, the advantage still lay with the Israeli side courtesy of the away-goals rule but in a tie with so many twists, there was always likely to be another. And so it was that another substitute, Abelsson, swooped to score a dramatic last-gasp goal and leave Maccabi Haifa coach Roni Levy ruing "a cruel defeat".
Unsurprisingly, Prahl was more upbeat: "It’s a great win, a great result for us." They will now face FC Thun, with the home first leg next week.
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