Another game, another loss for Mac TA

Zahavi’s penalty for yellow-and-blue’s maiden group-stage goal lone bright spot vs Porto in Haifa.

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Porto  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Porto
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv is still searching for its first point in the Champions League group stage, but at least it will not join Maccabi Haifa in infamy after scoring its first goal of the campaign in a 3-1 defeat to Porto at Haifa Stadium on Wednesday night.
Maccabi remained rooted to the bottom of Group G with a 1-11 goal difference following its fourth loss in four matches.
However, Eran Zahavi’s goal from the penalty spot in the 75th minute released a lot of pressure at the club, ensuring the yellow-and-blue won’t join the 2009/10 Maccabi Haifa as the only sides in the history of the competition to end the group stage without picking up a point or scoring a goal.
Maccabi was already trailing 3-0 when Zahavi scored, with Cristian Tello (19), André André (49) and Miguel Layun (72) scoring for Porto.
Nearly five years had elapsed since an Israeli team last scored in the group stage, with Zahavi also netting that goal for Hapoel Tel Aviv in the 2-2 draw at Lyon on December 7, 2010.
After finally scoring its first goal, Maccabi will aim to pick up a point when it hosts Chelsea in three weeks before ending its campaign at Dynamo Kiev on December 9.
Maccabi looked to get off to a fast start on Wednesday, reaching its first chance after just one minute. Zahavi found Tal Ben- Haim in space in the box, but the winger sent his shot wide.
Yellow-and-blue goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic was called into action in the 10th minute, saving Vincent Aboubakar’s rocket from 20 meters out.
The young Serbian then denied Miguel Layun a minute later, but it was only good fortune which spared him from conceding the opener when Aboubakar ballooned the rebound.
After spending much of the first match between the teams in Portugal as a bystander, Porto ’keeper Iker Casillas was forced into an excellent save on 15 minutes, keeping out Ben-Haim’s dangerous left-footed effort from the edge of the box.
Maccabi looked like it was closing in on its first goal in the group stage, but just four minutes later it was Porto which broke the deadlock. The Tel Aviv defense failed to clear the danger and Cristian Tello coolly slotted the ball past Rajkovic.
Porto would dominate the remainder of the first half and Maccabi was very fortunate to be down by just a single goal at the break.
Aboubakar registered one of the misses of the season in the 34th minute, failing to find the target from five meters out with the net at his mercy and Rajkovic already beaten.
However, the visitors only had to wait four second-half minutes to double their advantage, tearing the Maccabi defense apart with a couple of passes. Maxi Pereira popped the ball up for André André, who beat Eitan Tibi to head the ball in.
Porto’s second goal all but ended any hope Maccabi may have had of picking up a first point, but it was still desperate to score a first goal. It should have really done so 10 minutes into the second half, with Zahavi unable to break the drought with only Casillas to beat.
The veteran Spanish goalkeeper sent his clearance straight at Dor Peretz who left Zahavi in a one-on-one opportunity which he frustratingly failed to convert.
Porto made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute, with Layun’s clinical finish leaving Rajkovic with no chance.
The contest was over, but at least Maccabi finally scored its first goal of the campaign three minutes later, with referee Tasos Sidiropoulos awarding Tel Aviv a dubious penalty which Zahavi duly converted.