CL

by Andrew Sherwood

Maccabi Tel-Aviv midfielder Nikola Mitrovic admits Saturday’s victory over Maccabi Haifa has provided a timely boost for his side as they look to get their Champions League campaign back on track against Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday evening.

Slavisa Jokanovic’s men went into the league clash with Haifa on a three-match winless streak, which included a 4-0 European mauling at the hands of Chelsea and a galling 2-1 home defeat to Hapoel Ra’anana, whose winner came in stoppage time.

The trip to rock-bottom Haifa proved just the fillip for Tel-Aviv, though, as late goals from Eden Ben Basat and Dor Peretz earned a 2-0 win that lifted them to within two points of league leaders Maccabi Petah Tikva.

The victory, Mitrovic said, has also helped restore some confidence ahead of their Champions League encounter with Dynamo.

He said on his club’s official website: “It’s true (it) was a difficult game for us at a tough time after not winning in a few weeks. This gave us confidence right before the home game in the Champions League.

“We showed that we are a strong team, we kept the ball, we had our chances and we defended well. Most importantly we didn’t give up a goal and these are all good things for us.”

Tuesday’s visit of Dynamo will be Maccabi’s first home match in the Champions League group stages since 2004, and Mitrovic is hoping his side’s fans can help them bounce back following their heavy loss at Stamford Bridge in the opening round.

The Serbia international also knows it will not be easy for the Israeli double-winners against Dynamo, though.

He said: “I’m sure our supporters will play an important role and create a good atmosphere. I know this team (Dynamo) and they are very good, but I’m sure we will fight to the end in order to get a good result.”

Dynamo began their group campaign with 2-2 home draw against Porto, substitute Vitaliy Buyalskiy salvaging a point for the Ukrainian champions with an 89th-minute equaliser.

That was part of a 12-match unbeaten run that Dynamo will take to Israel, of which 10 have been victories.

The latest of those games was a 2-0 home win over Hoverla at the weekend which saw them stay three points clear at the top of the Premier League after nine rounds.

It was a comfortable enough result in the end but coach Serhiy Rebrov was pleased with the test his side were given – even if he concedes there are still things they need to improve on in Europe.

“I’m glad we’ve gained three points. We’ve had good sparring before an important match against Maccabi,” he said on his club’s website.

“Of course we should improve some aspects of our play, especially considering the game against Porto. That, though, was the first Champions League match for many of our players. I’m glad we’ve got one point. There were some mistakes, but we’ve analysed them.”