MACCABI TEL AVIV .
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Maccabi Tel Aviv faces an uphill battle to reach the group stage of the Europa
League after falling 2-0 to Paris Saint- Germain in the first leg of the
playoffs in the French capital on Thursday night.
After knocking out
Greek giant Olympiacos in the previous round, there were high hopes from Maccabi
ahead of Thursday’s encounter. However, the yellow-and-blue only really showed
up in the final 15 minutes of the match and can only blame itself for the
defeat, which could have been far worse had PSG been at its best.
Luyindula gave the hosts the lead after just three minutes thanks to Avi Strul’s
defensive howler, but PSG could not capitalize on its early breakthrough and
Maccabi’s poor form.
The hosts eventually doubled their lead in the 60th
minute through Guillaume Hoarau, and despite the fact Tel Aviv had its chances
to score in the closing 15 minutes, it can have no complaints about the final
outcome of the first leg, which leaves it with an outside chance at Bloomfield
Stadium next Thursday.
“This is a result we can overturn, even though we
are playing a quality side,” said manager Avi Nimni, who has already got his
sights set on Sunday's Premier League opener against Maccabi Haifa. “When you
concede two goals on the road you must score, but unfortunately that didn’t
happen even though we had our chances.
“We can't afford to miss such
The early mistake which led to their goal changed the
match and disrupted our plans. It is a shame we didn't manage to play the way we
did away at Olympiacos. We are disappointed but remain
Maccabi elected to start the match with five defenders, but
its tactical decision quickly backfired. Strul failed to clear Ceara’s cross,
sending the ball straight into the path of Luyindula, who slotted in the opener
with the match less than three minutes old.
Not only did Tel Aviv’s
decision to play with three centerbacks open up holes in its defense – it also
hindered its ability to break forward.
Strul, Ronnie Gafni and Savo
Pavicevic, who only trained with the team for one day, clearly lacked
But fortunately for Maccabi, PSG was also far from
impressive, and it failed to make the most of the confusion in the
With a league game against Bordeaux coming up on
Sunday, the hosts left several key players on the bench, with Claude Makelele,
Gregory Coupet and Sammy Traore not even making the squad.
That may have
been the reason for PSG’s mediocre play, with the Frenchmen only threatening
Liran Strauber’s goal once more in the first half when Hoarau had his powerful
header saved by the ’keeper four minutes from the break.
after the interval, Luyindula should have scored his second goal of the night,
but he shot straight at Strauber.
Seven minutes later, however, the hosts
would score their second.
Ludovic Giuly’s perfectly weighted pass gave
Hoarau the chance he was waiting for, and the Frenchman beat Strauber
curling effort. Maccabi at last found its footing after the introduction
Buzaglo, Yuval Avidor and Shiran Yeini as substitutes in the subsequent
and the visitors were not far from scoring a precious away goal.
Itzhaki, Avidor and Buzaglo all came close to breaching Apoula Edel’s
the Parisians maintained a clean sheet until the final whistle. As a
Maccabi has a tall mountain to climb if it’s to reach the Europa League