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Kiryat Shmona put Sparta qualification on hold

Thursday 8 November 2012 23.00 CET
Sparta's Ladislav Krejčí tussles with Lior Levi of Kiryat Shmona

Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC held AC Sparta Praha in Haifa to prevent the Czech side qualifying for the knockout phase early, while maintaining their own slim hopes.

A win would have secured progress for the visitors, but Barak Bakhar's men knew defeat would end their own European ambitions, and Darko Tasevski put the hosts ahead just three minutes in. Leony Kweuke blasted in an equaliser from 30 metres, but no winner could be found. Sparta must wait until they welcome Group I leaders Olympique Lyonnais on matchday five for their next chance to confirm a spot among the final 32.

Despite picking up just one point, Kiryat Shmona had managed five goals in their opening three games, and showed their cutting edge immediately. László Lencse stretched the Sparta defence in the centre, before rolling the ball sideways to the onrushing Tasevski and the winger slotted between the legs of Tomáš Vaclík. Lencse's chip almost doubled the advantage, before the equaliser arrived on 24 minutes in spectacular fashion. Mario Holek headed goalkeeper Daniel Amos's clearance forward to Kweuke, and the forward volleyed the bouncing ball over the out-of-position custodian.

The goal signalled a period of intense Sparta pressure, and Amos needed to be on form to save from Josef Hušbauer and Tomáš Zápotočný, while Matěj Hybš shot over. After the break Marek Matějovský saw a free-kick blocked for Vítězslav Lavička's team, and another fly centimetres wide, while Amos was called into action, diving to his right to repel Zápotočný's bullet header. Kiryat Shmona showed little threat, yet held on for what could prove a crucial point. Five points behind Sparta, the third-placed Israeli side must win their remaining two matches to give themselves a glimmer of hope, starting against Athletic Club on 22 November.

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