Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Europa League campaign ended in emphatic fashion on Thursday night. The Israeli champion was comfortably beaten 3-0 at FC Basel in the second leg of the round-of-32, losing the two-legged tie by the same score-line after last week’s first match at Bloomfield Stadium ended in a 0-0 deadlock.
Maccabi entered Thursday’s clash with high hopes, knowing a goal would leave Basel requiring a victory to reach the next stage.
However, the yellow-and-blue was completely outplayed from the first minute in Switzerland and failed to find the back of the net against Basel for the third time in four meetings this season.
Basel also knocked out Maccabi in the Champions League third qualifying round at the start of the season, claiming a 1-0 victory in Switzerland in the first leg before drawing 3-3 at Bloomfield, with Tel Aviv only finally scoring after falling to a 3-0 deficit.
Besides seeing its continental campaign come to an end, there was further bad news for Maccabi on Thursday after striker Barak Itzhaki suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee. Itzhaki will miss the rest of this season and possibly also the start of 2014/15. The striker also sat out almost the entire 2010/11 campaign after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the team’s first Premier League game.
Itzhaki was named in the starting lineup on Thursday, but was injured during the warm-up.
Matters only got worse for Maccabi after that, with the hosts totally dominating the proceedings.
Valentin Stocker headed Basel into the lead in the 17th minute, with Maccabi goalkeeper Juan Pablo parrying the ball into his own net.
Tel Aviv failed to register a single shot towards Basel’s goal in the first half and was fortunate to find itself down by just a single goal at the break, with Stocker squandering a golden opportunity in the 42nd minute.
Maccabi’s chance arrived in the 57th minute, but it failed to capitalize and soon found itself in an unassailable deficit.
Maharan Radi had all the time in the world in the center of the box, only to fire his powerful effort straight at Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
The tie was as good as over three minutes later.
Marco Streller doubled Basel’s advantage with a header in the 60th minute before finishing off a delightful team move, once more with his head, to cap the victory in the 71st minute.
“Our opponent was stronger than us,” admitted Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa. “There were periods in the first half when we had some chances and we could have equalized at the start of the second half. It was very hard to come back once we conceded the second goal.”
Sousa was hopeful that the one-sided defeat and the loss of Itzahki would not have a long-term effect on the team’s quest to defend its league title.
“Every defeat has its effect, as does the absence of players like Itzhaki,” said Sousa. “But we need to focus on the solution and we will now concentrate on our league campaign in the hope that we can embark on a new winning streak when we face Hapoel Ra’anana on Sunday.”