Basel jumps out to 1-0 advantage over Mac TA

Despite first-leg defeat in Switzerland, yellow-and-blue remains optimistic of advancing.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's Maharan Radi 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
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 on Tuesday.
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.
Maccabi 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 League ambition.
“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.
Omri 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.