Tampa, Florida – On Tuesday afternoon, Israel’s Maccabi Haifa advanced to the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2009, with former Reading United striker Franz Di Piero topping the table.
Piero has made six appearances for Maccabi Haifa, scoring five goals in all Champions League qualifying rounds. He joined the club from Guingamp in France this summer. He scored braces against Greek champions Olympiacos and Serbian champions Red Star Belgrade in the first leg of the competition.
In the first half of Haifa’s away leg in Serbia, the Red Stars were leading 2–0 as the match approached half-time. After a missed penalty by his Dolev Hazizia in Haifa, a lengthy strike from Sandgren leveled the team to his 4-4 on aggregate and halves.
The second half was more positive for Haifa, although the team struggled to get the ball into scoring position. Piero returned to midfield and assisted the attack, but the game looked like extra time as the game entered the 90th minute.
However, Haifa were awarded one final free kick due to a foul on the left side of the pitch. This saw Belgrade striker Milan Pavkov accidentally deflect his own goal, propelling Haifa into the group stage of the Champions League.
The match also featured former USL League 2 and USL Championship goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who made 11 appearances for the Burlingame Dragons in 2015.
Frantzdy Pierrot made 22 appearances for Reading United between 2016 and 2018, scoring 12 goals including two hat-tricks in the 2017 season.
The UEFA Champions League group stage draw will take place on Thursday at 12pm ET, where Piero and Cohen will find their next campaign opponents.