Maccabi Haifa impress Europe in Champions League defeat to Messi's PSG

Despite scoring the first goal of the match, the Israeli champions were downed by the Parisian stars in a fearless display against the French champions.

 Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi in action with Maccabi Haifa's Josh Cohen (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi in action with Maccabi Haifa's Josh Cohen
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)

Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa were beaten 3-1 after scoring the first goal in a valiant battle against French giants Paris Saint-Germain in an enthralling UEFA Champions League group stage match on Wednesday night.

Surinamese star Tjaronn Cherry scored Maccabi Haifa's first goal in Champions League proper since 2002 against the French champions and their star-studded front three of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, who all scored one each to silence the crowd at Sammy Ofer.

 Fans with flare are seen in the stands during Maccabi Haifa vs Paris St Germain at Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa, Israel (credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS) Fans with flare are seen in the stands during Maccabi Haifa vs Paris St Germain at Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa, Israel (credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)

Maccabi Haifa players go toe-to-toe with Lionel Messi

Haifa supporters, who were in full force and extremely vocal during the match, were on cloud nine as a Dolev Haziza cross met a Chery volley into the back of Gianluigi Donnarumma's net in the 24th minute.

The Israeli champions were largely controlling affairs until the goal and looked better than their French counterparts at that point of the match.

Minutes later, a lobbed pass from Israeli international Mohamed Abu Fani found Frantzdy Pierrot, who celebrated wildly before the flag was up for offside and the Haitian forward's goal was overruled.

A simple Messi goal created by French superstar Kylian Mbappe tied the game just before half-time.

 Maccabi Haifa's Tjaronn Chery celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates (credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS) Maccabi Haifa's Tjaronn Chery celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates (credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)

Kylian Mbappe, Neymar seal it for Paris in second half

Despite Les Parisiens' domination in the second half, both sides had decent chances to take the lead through Pierrot and Messi, respectively. However, it was the Argentinian who drew first blood in the second half with a ball to Mbappe who finished calmly into the bottom corner, giving Paris the 2-1 lead in Haifa.

In the 88th minute, Neymar, still the most expensive footballer in the world, wrapped things up for Paris with a fantastic counter-attacking goal.

PSG and Moroccan international wingback Achraf Hakimi was booed yet again in Israel, as he was in PSG's Super Cup victory over Nantes in Tel Aviv last month, due to him expressing his support to the Palestinian cause during the May 2021 round of fighting, IDF's Operation Guardian of the Walls.

When substituted on in the second half, Hakimi was shown cupping his ears to the Israeli crowd.

The defeat leaves Maccabi Haifa, coached by Barak Bakhar, rock bottom of their Champions League group after also losing to Portuguese side SL Benfica 2-0 earlier this month in Lisbon. There are four matches left to go for Haifa, with two fierce battles against Italian giants Juventus coming up next month.