(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Despite a brave fight back, Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Champions League dream ended at
Bloomfield Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Israeli champion always required
a special performance to oust FC Basel after losing the first leg 1-0 last week.
However, the yellow-and- blue found itself facing mission impossible after just
32 minutes of the return leg, trailing 3-0 following a dismal defensive display,
leaving Tel Aviv requiring five goals to advance.
Maccabi didn’t score
five, but it managed to find the back of the net three times, giving itself real
hope of completing a momentous comeback after equalizing in the 54th
However, it never really came close to advancing, ultimately only
managing an entertaining 3-3 draw, dropping to a 4-3 defeat on aggregate in the
third qualifying round.
The only real consolation for Maccabi is that its
continental campaign will continue in the Europa League playoffs, although coach
Paulo Sousa drew plenty of other positives from Tuesday’s match.
proud of my players,” said Sousa. “We showed our quality not just to Israel but
to the entire world.
We hoped to advance, but we were facing an
After controversially avoiding the traditional
pre-match handshakes with Maccabi players last week, Egyptian Mohamed Salah
followed the protocol on Tuesday but was still treated to deafening boos every
time he touched the ball.
However, Basel would soon silence the Maccabi
fans, taking the lead after less than five minutes.
A reckless challenge
by the usually reliable Shiran Yeini gifted Basel a penalty and Fabian Schar
dusted himself down and sent goalkeeper Juan Pablo the wrong way.
only got worse for Maccabi after that, with the four-time defending Swiss
champion opening a 3-0 lead by the 32nd minute.
The much-maligned Salah
coolly found the back of the net in the 21st minute after Basel quickly broke
forward following an irresponsible Eran Zahavi turnover.
fans were already making their way home in the 32nd minute after Marcelo Diaz’s
sensational strike with the outside of his right foot flew into the top right
Tel Aviv seemed to be heading towards an embarrassing defeat, but
while it failed to overturn the massive deficit, it did at least show its
character with a memorable comeback.
Just two minutes after going three
goals in front, Schar bundled the ball into his own net after ‘keeper Yann
Sommer could only parry Barak Itzhaki’s powerful effort.
Zahavi made it
3-2 with barely two more minutes passing by, surging into the box before
smashing the ball past Sommer.
The Swiss goalie had to be at his best to
deny Tal Ben-Haim with seven minutes remaining in the first half, but Maccabi
got well and truly back into the match nine minutes after the break, with
Maharan Radi scoring with a sensational volley from outside the box to tie the
score at 3-3.
Maccabi still required two more goals to complete a
remarkable feat, but despite throwing caution to the wind, it failed to score
again and will have to quickly turn its focus to reaching the Europa League
“We can look at the match from two angles,” said Zahavi. “We
were forced to chase Basel from the start, but we showed our character. Anyone
who saw this match wouldn’t have been able to guess which team is which. We had
a chance to complete a comeback, but the dream will have to wait a little