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Maccabi ease to Sturm showdown

FC Belshina Bobruisk 0-1 Maccabi Haifa(Aggregate: 0-5) Israel's Maccabi advance.

FC Belshina Bobruisk 0-1 Maccabi Haifa (Maccabi win 5-0 on aggregate)
Maccabi Haifa underlined their superiority over FC Belshina Bobruisk after a 1-0 UEFA Champions League victory in Belarus tonight saw them advance to a meeting with SK Sturm Graz in the final qualifying round with a 5-0 aggregate triumph.

Relaxed mood
Maccabi's four-goal cushion from the first leg enabled them to approach this second round second-leg fixture in relaxed mood, and it showed as the Israeli side passed the ball around confidently from the off. Indeed it took Itzhak Shum's side just seven minutes to open the scoring.

Pralija penalty
A superb 50-metre ball from Arik Benado found Rafi Cohen, whose first-time pass to Yaniv Katan freed him in the box only for Sergey Sinitsyn to impede Katan at the expense of the penalty. Nenad Pralija came forward and dispatched the spot-kick with ease to steer Maccabi five goals ahead on aggregate.

Profligate finishing
Belshina were soon presented with a chance to level proceedings but Ihar Trukhau could not beat Nir Davidovitch after finding himself with just the goalkeeper to beat. Maccabi closed ranks after that and were content to play defensively for the rest of the first half, passing the ball between themselves to frustrate the Belarussians.

Strypeikis goes close
While Maccabi dominated possession in the second half, it was the home side who went closest to scoring. Belshina's Valery Strypeikis rattled the crossbar from 14 metres in the 56th minute, before the same player shot narrowly wide seven minutes later with what proved to be his side's final chance.

Shum not impressed
Despite winning both legs of this tie to move within two matches of a place in the first group stage of the Champions League, Shum was not impressed with Maccabi's display. "The only good thing we did today was qualify for the next round," he said. "If we play like we did today [in the next round against Sturm] we will not qualify for the Champions League."

'Predictable' outcome
Shum's opposite number, Vyacheslav Ashkaev, knew that his Belshina side had too much to do following their first-leg thumping. "The outcome of the match was predictable, but Maccabi looked fresher than us," said Ashkaev, who also revealed he may stand down at the City stadium.