It took 90+ minutes but Maccabi was able to come back to Israel with an away goal by Yossi Benayoun as the veteran midfielder drew his side even after Andrey Arshavin’s first half goal gave Kairat an early lead.

Head Coach Shota Arveladze had Serbian keeper Predrag Rajikovic in goal with Avi Rikan, Eitan Tibi, Tal Ben Haim and Dor Peretz in front of him. Gal Alberman was wearing the captain’s armband and was in his usual defensive midfielder’s position with Nosa Igiebor and Haris Medunjanin also playing in the center of the pitch. Winger Tal Ben Chaim, Dor Micha and striker Orlando Sa provided the attack up front.

First Half

The hosts took to the offense from the get go as the Kazakhstan side are in the middle of their domestic season. Gerard Gohou had a one on one situation with Rajikovic but was ruled to be offside in the 8th minute. However, once the match settled down after a frantic start, it was Igiebor with two header chances in the 18th and 21st minutes who almost scored first, with the second header coming on a terrific Rikan cross.
But it was veteran striker Andrey Arshavin who put Kairat on top, slotting home a perfect pass in the box by Gohou to take a 1:0 lead over Maccabi in the 29th minute. Three minutes later, Sa almost drew the Yellow & Blue even when he went in on the host keeper Vladimir Pokatilov but a Kairat defender just tipped the ball away in the box. A minute later, Igiebor’s chance was robbed again by Pokatilov frustrating the Nigerian midfielder.

In the 35th minute, Isael’s 18 meter blast was saved by Rajikovic and ten minutes later, Arshavin almost doubled his side’s output by streaking down the left wing and beating Peretz, but Tibi just headed the ball away at the last seodnd for a corner kick keeping the Maccabi deficit at only 1:0 going into the break.

Second Half

With driving rain coming down in Almaty, Maccabi came out strong to begin the second half. Ben Chaim led the attack, passed the ball off to Micha who gave it back to number 11 in the box, but his low shot skirted by the left post in the 48th minute. Five minutes later, Rikan’s 18 meter screamer was just tipped over the goal by Pokatilov for a corner as Maccabi continued to search for the equalizer.

Following an Alberman yellow card, Bauyrzhan Islamkhan’s free kick was smartly stopped by Rajikovic in the 56th minute. Ten minutes later, Igiebor took an unbelievable pass in on goal but instead of shooting he tried to pass the keeper who just got a hand on the ball to pull it in to safety.

In order to change it up a bit, Arveladze introduced Yossi Benayoun in favor of Ben Chaim in the 73rd minute. Six minutes later Medunjanin tried his luck from 18 meters but his effort was collected again by the Pokatilov. Barak Itzhaki entered the match for Igiebor in the 86th minute while Eyal Golasa came on for Medunjanin a few ticks later.
And what would you know! For the second straight week it was Yossi Benayoun to the rescue as number 51 took a deep pass from Micha and scored from inside the box drawing Maccabi even and taking an home an all important away goal. Following the Benayoun strike, Kairat captain Bauyrzhan Islamkhan was issued a red card for dissent and won’t be available for next match as the game ended 1:1.

The second leg will take place next Thursday July 21st at the Netanya Stadium while the third round Europa League qualifying draw will take place tomorrow, on Friday July 15th.