Helsingborg reached the playoff stage of the Europa League after beating Israeli side Bnei Yehuda at Olympia Stadium; Elfsborg, Häcken crash out
Helsingborg scored a 3-0 win over Bnei Yehuda in the second leg of the third-qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League, overcoming a 1-0 first-leg deficit to advance to the playoff stage of the tournament.
Helsingborg faces Belgian team FC Standard Liege in the playoff stage, with the first leg in Belgium Aug. 18 and the return leg a week later at Olympia Stadium.
The two other Swedish clubs in the competition weren’t so fortunate. Elfsborg bowed out following a 1-1 draw with Norwegian side Ålesund. Elsborg lost the first leg 4-0. BK Häcken also exited in the third round despite topping Portuguese side Nacional 2-1. Häcken faced a 3-0 deficit after the first leg.
Helsingborg turned to a familiar face to overcome its Israeli opposition. Mattias Lindström fired in two goals while Ardan Gashi added the third to lead the current Allsvenskan front-runners to the win.
Lindström, 31, was a star with Helsingborg during the 1990s before embarking on a career in Europe. He bounced around Denmark, Austria and Switzerland before returning to Olympia Stadium at the start of the 2011 season. A seasoned pro, Lindström had problems cracking the starting lineup until Alexander Gerndt departed for Holland in a Helsingborg club-record 35-million-kronor transfer.
Two-goal performance For one day at least, the 30-something Lindström made HIF fans forget about the teen star. Lindström opened the scoring the third minute as Helsingborg attacked right from the opening whistle. The Tel Aviv side refused the completely break and Pini Balili twice tested Pär Hansson with hard shots.
Needing at least another goal, Helsingborg went on the attack after the break. Gashi netted 13 minutes into the second half off a cross from Cristopher Andersson. The goal settled the Swedes’ nerves and put all the pressure on the Israelis. Lindström took advantage as Bnei Yehuda threw caution to the wind and attacked nine even 10 players and netted his second goal of the game at the 73-minute mark.
From that point, all Helsingborg had to do was prevent the Israelis from scoring. At the final whistle they piled on Lindström, whose two goals were the first he has scored for HIF this season.
“The first goal was really important,” Lindström said. “It got us off on a good start.”
If Elfsborgs beats Liege to reach the group stage, it would mark the second time in five years HIF has reached the fifth round of the Europa League. Lindström said he thinks all the pressure is on the Belgians.
“We can just go out and play and see what happens,” he said. “It’s a couple of games, then we’re in the group stage. We’ve been there before, so we know how fun it can be.”
In Borås, Martin Ericsson scored an equalizing goal, but it was nowhere near enough for Elfsborg to overcome its 4-0 first-leg hole.
In Göteborg, Rene Makondele scored twice to give Häcken fans hope of a near-miraculous comeback, but an away goal from Mario Rondon made sure Nacional would progress to the playoffs.
By Chipp Reid
Mattias Lindström heads in he third goal of Helsingborg's 3-0 win over Bnei Yehuda of Israel Aug. 4 in the UEFA Europa League. Bildbyrån photo