mac haifa 248.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
After four games, Maccabi Haifa's Champions League campaign is turning into a disaster.
For all their effort, Elisha Levy's troops lost a fourth consecutive game of the group stage on Tuesday night, this time 1-0 at home to Italian giant Juventus, leaving the Greens rock bottom of Group A with a total of zero points and zero goals.
Unlike two weeks ago in Turin, Juventus played solid, composed soccer for the vast majority of the game in Ramat Gan, with Brazilian striker Diego causing problems for the Maccabi defense time and again and the hosts never really looked like winning.
Mauro Camoranesi scored the only goal of the game a minute before the half-time whistle, expertly volleying in a Martin Caceres cross.
But the single-goal scoreline did not do justice to the domination Juve imposed on its hapless opponent.
Haifa may be running away with the Israeli Premier League, having won all eight of its games so far this season, but it is clearly well out of its depth in European club soccer's greatest competition.
On Tuesday, the Maccabi squad found it difficult to even come near to denting the goal manned by legendary Italy national team goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.
Shlomi Arbeitman, in his first start of the group stage, came closest to scoring, but never really close enough.
Even captain Yaniv Katan, who stood out in earlier Champions League games, was quiet for much of the encounter.
With two games left - Bayern Munich away from home and Bordeaux in Ramat Gan - Maccabi will only be hoping of picking up a point or two in the manner of the 3-0 victory over Manchester United, which concluded its last appearance in the group stage seven years ago.
On Tuesday, Maccabi had actually started relatively well, winning a free kick from far out in first minute which Katan sent well high.
But soon regular order was restored with the Italians passing the ball around crisply and Haifa acting nervous at the back.
Less than six minutes had gone by when Diego picked up the ball from Camoranesi, dinked into the box and unleashed a stinging shot which Haifa goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch could only parry away for a corner.
Ali Osman and Katan linked up along the right and Osman hit a speculative effort, but it didn't come close to troubling Buffon.
Diego was terrorizing the Haifa back line through the middle, winning a free kick in the 10th minute, which he took himself and forced a diving save out of Davdiovitch.
When Haifa tried to attack on the break, its attempts were easily broken up by the Juventus defenders. And when they did get into positive positions, the Maccabi players drifted offside on far too many occasions.
However, despite its dominance, Juventus was finding it hard to carve out many real chances. When Amauri headed over the bar from a Camoranesi cross just before the half-hour mark, the frustration began to show.
A minute later Shlomi Arbeitman was desperately unlucky not to score Haifa's first goal of its Champions League campaign. The young striker found the ball at his feet when Dekel Keinan headed down a Katan corner but Buffon somehow managed to put him off and the ball hit the post, bouncing agonizingly away for another corner kick.
An increase in the pace of the game suited Haifa and chances began to flow.
Boccoli crossed to Dvalishvili only for the Georgian's header to miss the target by a fair margin before Tiago's lob was only a few inches over Davidovitch's goal at the other end.
The goal came two minutes into injury time. Right back Caceres broke forward, crossed into the box for Cameronesi to shoot into the top left corner on the half volley.
It had been another 45 minutes of European soccer where Haifa had failed to score, but this was the first time in this season's Champions League that the Greens hadn't gone into half time with the game still goalless.
Levy took Colombia midfielder John Culma off at half time, replacing him with Mohammad Ghadir. The Colombian had received a yellow card towards the end of the first period after arguing with Caceras over a potential foul, and was proving a possible liability.
Maccabi caught a break when Amouri appeared to have doubled the visitors' lead soon after the restart, but his goal was ruled offside and the hosts continued to dream of getting back in the game.
Levy's troops pushed forward as the game moved into its final third, with Arbeitman only centimeters from connecting to a Lior Refaelov cross with 13 minutes left, drawing groans from the 38,000 Haifa fans packed into the stadium.
As the game petered out towards the end the Italians visibly grew in stature while Levy's players appeared resigned to yet another European defeat.