Israel’s soccer champions narrowly miss spot in top Euro league
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Israel’s soccer champions narrowly miss spot in top Euro league

Hapoel Beersheba fails to make group stage of Champions League after losing 2nd leg of play-off tie against Slovenia's NK Maribor

Hapoel Beer-Sheva players react at the end of the UEFA Champions League qualifying match against NK Maribor, August 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Borut Zivulovic)
Hapoel Beer-Sheva players react at the end of the UEFA Champions League qualifying match against NK Maribor, August 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Borut Zivulovic)

Israeli champions Hapoel Beersheba failed to qualify for Europe’s premier soccer tournament Tuesday night when it suffered a 1-0 defeat to Slovenia’s NK Maribor.

Hapoel came into the Champions League play-off game with an advantage, having beaten its opponents 2-1 on home turf last week, but the final 2-2 aggregate score meant that it ultimately lost out on the away goal rule.

Facing a boisterous home crowd in Slovenia’s second city, Hapoel struggled to overcome a strong start by Maribor which allowed defender Mitja Viler to net a left-footed shot from the center of the box in the 14th minute.

Hapoel tried to equalize with several attempts on goal from strikers Maor Melikson and Johan Ogu, including a diving header from the Nigerian in the 93rd minute, but the scoreboard remained unchanged at the end of the game.

Maribor's Martin Milec (L) vies with Hapoel Beer Shevas Anthony Nwakaeme during the UEFA Champions league qualifying match, August 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Borut Zivulovic)
Maribor’s Martin Milec (L) vies with Hapoel Beer Shevas Anthony Nwakaeme during the UEFA Champions league qualifying match, August 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Borut Zivulovic)

The loss means that Hapoel, who won the Israeli league in 2016 for a second consecutive year, will not qualify for the group stage of the Champions League but will instead now play in the UEFA Europa League.

Last year the team made a significant mark on the European soccer scene, recording its best ever run in the top-flight competition by making it to the third qualifying round. It was knocked out after losing 5-4 on aggregate to Scottish champions Celtic.

Celtic joined Maribor Tuesday, along with Sevila, Napoli and Olympiacos, in winning their play-offs and securing a place in the competition’s group stages. The remaining five ties will conclude on Wednesday, with the highlight seeing Liverpool take a 2-1 lead into its second leg against Hoffenheim at Anfield.

The draw for the lucrative group stage will be held in Monaco on Thursday.

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