Maccabi Tel Aviv's Maharan Radi 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Champions League dream is still alive, but the
yellow-and-blue left itself with a hole to dig out of in the second leg of the
third qualifying round after suffering a 1-0 defeat to FC Basel in Switzerland
The four-time defending Swiss champion dominated the first
half and Maccabi was fortunate to find itself just onegoal down at the break,
with Valentin Stocker scoring the opener in the 39th minute.
finally found its rhythm after the break and had its chances to equalize, coming
within centimeters of a precious away goal when Rade Prica’s shot was denied by
the woodwork in the 70th minute.
However, the yellow-andblue couldn’t
find the back of the net and both sides seemed content with the score-line at
the final whistle, leaving the tie finely poised ahead of next Tuesday’s return
leg at Bloomfield Stadium.
“I think we respected our opponent too much in
the first half,” said Maccabi coach Paulo Sousa. “It’s normal to respect our
opponent considering what they have done in Europe in recent years, but when we
played like Maccabi we caused them difficulties.”
Sousa insisted that
Basel has a clear edge, but believes Maccabi can still realize its Champions
“They are always the favorites,” he said of Basel. “It
was a shame because in this qualification it is important to play well away and
we had opportunities to score. We will prepare really well to achieve our dream
to pass the third round.”
Basel seized control right from the first
whistle and Maccabi only held on thanks to some desperate defending.
Altman’s last-ditch tackle was all that stood between Stocker and the
breakthrough in the 33rd minute, but the Swiss midfielder finally broke the
deadlock six minutes later.
A swift team move ended with the ball at
Stocker’s feet with plenty of time and space in the center of the Maccabi box
and he made no mistake with his shot.
Basel’s best chance of the second
half arrived in the 68th minute when Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah had the
goal at his mercy. However, his lob from 40 meters out missed the empty target,
leaving the tie tantalizingly balanced ahead of next week’s return leg.