By Ofer Ronen-Abels at the Bloomfield stadium
Roberto Colautti's 31st-minute goal earned Maccabi Haifa FC a narrow victory against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the first leg of their UEFA Cup first-round tie, but the Israeli side can thank goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch for sealing the win with a series of fine second-half saves.
With the game being played on Rosh Hashana, only 5,300 fans turned up to the Bloomfield stadium in Jaffa, and the hosts began the match with pressure on Dnipro's goal from the start with Andriy Rusol's perfectly timed tackle denying Yaniv Katan from breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute.
Four minutes later, Katan who kept tormenting the Ukranian side down the right flank, found Walid Badir on the edge of the area. He unselfishly released Idan Tal whose shot was saved.
The deadlock was broken just after the half-hour mark when Colautti scored his debut goal in spectacular fashion. The Argentinian striker, who arrived in the summer from CA Boca Juniors, span round Serhiy Matiukhin to charge into the area. With only Vyacheslav Kernozenko to beat, he rounded the advancing keeper and, from the tightest of angles, slotted the ball into the net.
Two minutes later Gustavo Boccoli came close to doubling the score as he shrugged of a defender before breaking into the area. But the diminutive Brazilian midfield player saw his effort saved by Kernozenko.
Dnipro coach Yevgen Kucherevskiy introduced Serhiy Nazarenko for Oleh Shelayev at the restart, a move which changed the course of the game almost instantly. The visitors appeared more dangerous going forward while Haifa's defence looked shaky.
Wescley Goncalves denied the visitors an equaliser in the opening minutes of the second half as Nazarenko's close-range shot struck him in the face. Then, on the hour mark, Haim Megrelishveli charged down the left past three defenders but was denied by the keeper.
Davidovitch kept denying the Ukranian side as Haifa's defence was breached several times in the second half. While, at the opposite end, Badir and Colautti missed chances to extend Haifa's advantage. In the 70th minute, Dnipro's best chance fell to Nazarenko only to see Davidovitch rescue his team from conceding once again.