After conjuring a miraculous escape act to earn Maccabi Haifa FC's place in the play-offs, Vladimer Dvalishvili is determined it is merely the start as the Israeli team gear up to take on FC Salzburg.
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After conjuring the most miraculous of escape acts to earn Maccabi Haifa FC's place in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, Georgian striker Vladimer Dvalishvili is determined it is merely the start for the Israeli team as they gear up to take on FC Salzburg.
Trailing 3-0 after just 15 minutes of the second leg of their third qualifying round tie against FK Aktobe, the writing was on the wall for Maccabi until Dvalishvili intervened. The Georgian international teed up Yaniv Katan and Eyal Golsa prior to half-time before seizing the spotlight himself as two goals in four second-half minutes secured the most remarkable of comeback victories. "It was an unpleasant surprise for Aktobe," he told uefa.com. "Our situation was desperate but we somehow managed to win. I'm very pleased. I am already settled here."
Dvalishvili only arrived in Israel last month after catching the attention of scouts with 13 goals in 15 games for Skonto FC in Latvia. It took €300,000 to prise him away from Riga but not before bowing out with six goals in three outings, including four against mid-table JFK Olimps. He struck twice on his Haifa debut against Glentoran FC and looks to have picked up where he left off. "I had a good chance of becoming the top scorer in Latvia but a move to Maccabi seemed an important step for my career," said the 23-year-old, who started out at FC Dinamo Tbilisi.
His short settling-in period was helped by the presence at Maccabi of compatriot Georgi Daraselia, assistant to head coach Elisha Levi. The former Georgia international enjoyed a successful spell at Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC as a player, and remained in Israel after hanging up his boots. "Maccabi's goal is to win every competition," explained Daraselia. "We won the league and expectations are now very high so we needed a prolific striker; it wasn't important what country he came from but I'm delighted Vladimer is not only helping our club but also raising the profile of Georgian football."
Dvalishvili's profile in Georgian football is on the rise too and he made his senior international debut in June. "It was always my dream to play on the international stage," he said, a feeling that extends to Maccabi's continental ambitions. "Salzburg are much stronger than Aktobe, but it does not mean that we will be any weaker. Maccabi will fight until the end and we have to believe our chances are 50/50." As he proved against Aktobe, Dvalishvili is no stranger to upsetting the odds.