Maccabi resist Aktobe advances

FK Aktobe 0-0 Maccabi Haifa FC
Elisha Levi's side return to Israel the happier after repelling the Kazakh titleholders' attempts to prise open a first-leg advantage.

Emil Kenzhisariev went close with a free-kick for Aktobe
Emil Kenzhisariev went close with a free-kick for Aktobe ©Sergey Khodanov

The outcome of this third qualifying round tie is in the balance after a goalless draw between FK Aktobe and Maccabi Haifa FC.

Free-scoring sides
The Kazakh champions scored six goals in two matches against FH Hafnarfjördur in the previous round while Maccabi went four better versus Glentoran FC but neither could repeat their scoring feats here. And the hosts are likely to be the more disappointed of the two sides after dominating the second half.

Dvalishvili close
An energetic opening full of flowing moves from both teams promised much early on, when the visitors shaded the contest. Vladimer Dvalishvili, who joined Maccabi from Latvian side Skonto FC three weeks ago, had two glorious opportunities to add to his two strikes in the first leg against Glentoran but his first effort was parried by home goalkeeper Andrei Sidelnikov while the second went wide. Aktobe answered with a dangerous shot by Murat Tleshev while Marat Khayrullin saw his scissor-kick from an Ulugbek Asanbayev cross repelled by Nir Davidovich.

No fear
Aktobe raised the tempo after the break, peppering the visiting goal with a host of shots from different ranges. Emil Kenzhisariev failed to break the deadlock with a free-kick from 20 metres before Asanbayev tried to beat the advancing Davidovich with a long-range lob, but missed the target. Elisha Levi's side responded late on after Yero Bello replaced Dvalishvili but the Nigerian striker also spurned his chances. Both coaches promised an attractive return, however. "This game will be different to the one in Israel," said Levi, while Aktobe counterpart Vladimir Mukhanov added: "We are not afraid of our opponents."