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Buffaloes Suffer 1-0 Defeat in Lackluster Match

Defensive tampering by the Buffaloes resulted in the only goal of a lackluster match halfway through the second half. Maccabi Haifa took full advantage and gave itself an excellent starting position for next Wednesday’s return in Ghent. The Buffaloes, who will still have a hard time with that return, continue to look for themselves and a first victory in 2024.

AA Gent remains in the corner where the blows fall. So 2024 will remain anything but the year of the Buffalo for the time being. However, Hein Vanhaezebrouck did not want to give up AA Gent’s European campaign just like that. “No way,” said the Ghent coach the day before the first leg against the Israelis. In the end he had three surprises in store: Sonko celebrated his starting debut, while Roef and Gandelman were preferred to Schmidt and Hong.

The much-troubled Buffalos hoped to regain the good feeling in Budapest, but certainly did not lose sight of the Buffalo fans who traveled with them. De Sart, Tissoudali and Samoise entered the field a little earlier than their teammates and handed out ‘match scarves’ just before the start of the warm-up to these 100 supporters who also came to support their team in the Hungarian capital.

Before the break, Vanhaezebrouck, who was in his last hours in his fifties, saw his team claim the initiative and Sonko in particular made a few positive appearances, but creating goal danger proved very difficult for the Buffaloes. Tissoudali also made himself noticed repeatedly, but more often with failed dribbles and ditto passes. In the end it was Sonko who put his nose in the window for the first time on the half hour, but the Swede crashed into the fists of goalkeeper Keouf.

Photo: AFP

On the other side, Roef was not tested much either, but the hard-working Pierrot did not hesitate and a few minutes after Sonko’s excellent attempt, the striker kept Watanabe well at bay, but the Haitian kicked the ball wide of the Buffaloes’ goal. In the end, both teams went into halftime with the score 0-0.

Vanhaezebrouck stuck to his pre-arranged match plan and brought on Depoitre for Sonko after the break. The first Ghent goal was not long in coming, but after a nice collective attack, Gandelman decided on Keouf. On the other hand, things did not always look as reliable at the back at AA Gent. After Brown was initially absent, Roef also made himself noticed a little later with an uncertain intervention.

It mainly showed the unrest that was palpably present among the Buffaloes. The lack of a victory in 2024 left the nerves tense. “We need a sparkle,” Vanhaezebrouck put it succinctly the day before the match. A new defeat had to be absolutely avoided. In the meantime, the feeling grew at Maccabi Haifa that there was more to it than a fair game. The signal for coach Degu to throw Saief and Refaelov into the fight.

Ghent found it more difficult to put together a full-fledged attack and when Gerkens lost the ball too easily, Pierrot appeared face to face with Roef and the former Mouscron striker did not miss this opportunity. For a moment the line judge seemed to save the Buffalos, but the VAR waved away the appeal for offside and rightly approved the goal.

The Buffaloes now desperately looked for the equalizer and Hong came to relieve the unfortunate Gerkens. Haifa now leaned back emphatically, but all in all remained upright easily. Only with a good attempt by Gandelman did the Israelis really get away. Vanhaezebrouck’s troops launched a strong final offensive, but in the end Ghent suffered its sixth defeat of 2024 in Budapest.

This meant that nothing came of ‘Operation Good Feeling’. Next Wednesday the Buffalos will have to play hard in an empty arena to avoid European elimination. That will have to happen without De Sart because he took a third yellow card in the added time. There is another trip to Eupen on Sunday and Ghent will therefore not exactly start it with regained confidence. No, the trip to Budapest only caused more headaches.

Maccabi Haifa line-up: Keouf, Kandil (74′ Simic), Feingold, Seck, Gershon, Kinda (64′ Refaelov), Show (83′ Naor), Mohamed (64′ Sundgren), Lesovoy (64′ Saief), Pierrot and Podgoreanu

AA Gent line-up: Roef, Kandouss, Watanabe, Mitrovic, Samoise (81′ Fadiga), De Sart, Gerkens (69′ Hong), Brown, Gandelman, Sonko (46′ Depoitre) and Tissoudali

Goals: 65′ Pierrot 1-0

Yellow cards: Kandil, Feingold and De Sart

Red cards:

Referee: William Collum (SCO)

2024-02-15 21:56:00
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