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Maccabi Haifa comeback stifles Shakhter

FC Shakhter Karagandy 2-2 Maccabi Haifa FC
Two inspired half-time substitutions paid dividends for Ariel Benado as his visitors came from two down to earn a point in Astana.

Aleksandr Mokin reacts as Shakhter let a two-goal lead slip
Aleksandr Mokin reacts as Shakhter let a two-goal lead slip ©Dinara Baikadamova

FC Shakhter Karagandy and Maccabi Haifa FC opened their group stage accounts in a game of two very different halves.

Both sides began Group L with one-goal defeats – Shakhter against PAOK FC and Maccabi Haifa against AZ Alkmaar – but it was the Kazakh side who appeared set to make amends on matchday two with first-half goals from Andrei Finonchenko and Yevgeni Tarasov. Ariel Benado rang the changes at the break, however, and Hen Ezra and Alon Turgeman went on to earn his men a draw.

Aleksandar Simčević was the stand-out player of the first half and he should have opened the hosts' account inside six minutes only to blaze over with just the goalkeeper to beat. Maccabi Haifa offered little in response, with a whipped cross-cum-shot across goal from Avihay Yadin their most threatening moment.

Simčević called Bojan Šaranov into action from a half-cleared corner, but the goalkeeper could do nothing with the final two efforts of the opening period. Finonchenko rose above Taleb Twatha to plant a firm header past Šaranov from Gevorg Ghazaryan's cross on 40 minutes, before Avihay Yadin could only flick Simčević's cross into the path of Tarasov, who controlled expertly and scored on the stroke of half-time.

Maccabi Haifa were a different proposition after the resumption, though, grabbing a lifeline when half-time substitute Ezra swept in on 54 minutes from a loose ball in the area. Shakhter then appeared to have quelled the visitors' intent until 11 minutes from time, when their other replacement at the break, Turgeman, took aim from distance and beat Aleksandr Mokin with a sensational dipping drive.