Champions League: Goalless Haifa crashes out

Goalless Haifa crashes o

haifa in CL 248.88 asaf kliger (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
haifa in CL 248.88 asaf kliger
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Haifa's Champions League dream turned into a bitter nightmare on Tuesday night after the Israeli champion became the first team in the 18-year history of the competition to end the group stage with no points or goals. Haifa suffered a 1-0 defeat to Bordeaux at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, a sour ending to a campaign which promised so much. Elisha Levy's men impressed for large periods in many of the six group matches, but after falling 3-0 to Bayern Munich in its group opener, they lost five consecutive 1-0 matches to set a new Champions League record for futility. The 2004/05 Deportivo La Coruna team was the only side until last night to end the group stage with no goals, but the Spaniards at least managed to collect two points. Eight different sides have finished the group stage with six defeats, but even the 2002/03 Spartak Moscow team, which conceded 18 goals, managed to score one. Haifa was far from its best on Tuesday and deserved no better than it got. Brazilian striker Jussie scored the only goal of the encounter in the 13th minute, and considering Maccabi's recent goal scoring record, there was only going to be one victor after that. Haifa went in search of the elusive goal right from the kickoff, but after 13 minutes found itself a goal down following a horrendous mistake by left-back Peter Masilela. The South African international completely fluffed his clearance and Abdou Traore crossed the ball perfectly for Jussie to smash in from short range. The early goal rattled the hosts and Haifa was very fortunate not to concede another in the subsequent five minutes. In the 15th minute, Bordeaux broke forward and after a good team move Jussie beat 'keeper Nir Davidovich with his shot, only for Dekel Keinan to come to his side's rescue with a desperate lunge at the line. Three minutes later, Fernando Cavenaghi created himself time and space in the Maccabi box, but he shot straight at Davidovich and Haifa was spared once more. After finally regaining its composure, Haifa began to pressure Bordeaux to its goal and had several opportunities to equalize before half time. In the 24th minute, Eyal Meshumar found Vladimir Dvalishvili in the box, but the Georgian could only hit the side netting. On the stroke of halftime, Lior Rafaelov sprinted free on the edge of the area, but Ulrich Rame kept the ball out with a well timed dive. Rafaelov continued to be Haifa's most dangerous player at the start of the second half, shooting just wide six minutes after the break. He came close once more in the 64th minute, sending his shot just over Rame's goal. Bordeaux never stopped threatening Davidovich's goal, with David Bellion sending an acrobatic volley wide in the 65th minute. In the 71st minute, the stadium rose in honor of Alon Harazi, who came on for Eyal Golasa to make his final appearance as a Haifa player before becoming the club's head scout. However, the 38-year-old Harazi could not help his team avoid European soccer infamy and Haifa will forever go down in history as the first team to end the Champions League group stage without picking up a point or scoring a goal.