Maccabi TA clinches Europa League progress

Yellow-and-blue through to round of 32 with 1-0 victory over Bordeaux in cold, wet night in Tel Aviv.

Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate 370 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Maccabi Tel Aviv players celebrate 370
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
They were soaked and frozen, but they couldn’t care one bit.
The 11,732 brave souls who came out to support Maccabi Tel Aviv in a drenched and frosty Bloomfield Stadium on Thursday night were simply happy to have witnessed an historic moment in their club’s history.
Maccabi secured its progress to the knockout rounds of a continental competition for the first time ever on Thursday, beating Girondins de Bordeaux 1-0 at Bloomfield to finish Europa League Group F in second place behind Eintracht Frankfurt.
A draw would have been enough for Maccabi, even had its rival for the runners- up position, APOEL Nicosia, beaten Frankfurt in Germany. However, Maccabi wanted to advance to the round of 32 in style and did so thanks to Eran Zahavi’s 74th-minute winner from the penalty spot.
Frankfurt beat Nicosia 2-0 in the group’s other match.
Despite facing a second-string Bordeaux lineup, Maccabi struggled to create scoring opportunities in the driving rain.
The hosts didn’t register a single shot on target in the first half, failing to convert the few chances they did manage to create.
Barak Itzhaki found himself all alone five meters from the Bordeaux goal nine minutes into the second half, but he sent his shot woefully wide.
Maccabi eventually made the breakthrough in the 74th minute, courtesy of some much-needed help from the visitors.
Bordeaux’s captain on the night, Matthieu Chalme, kicked Munas Dabbur’s head instead of the ball, resulting in a Maccabi penalty and a second yellow card for the French defender.
Zahavi stepped up to slot in his third goal of the group stage and Maccabi comfortably held on for the victory over the 10-men of Bordeaux to end the group with an impressive 11 points.
Maccabi will be among the 16 unseeded teams in Monday’s draw, meaning it will host the first leg on February 20 before playing the second leg on the road the following week.
As an unseeded team, Maccabi is set to face either one of the Europa League group winners or one of the four best third-place finishers in the Champions League group stage.
Napoli of Italy, Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine, Benfica of Portugal and FC Basel of Switzerland, which beat Maccabi in the Champions League third qualifying round earlier this season, are the four teams that were demoted from the Champions League which could end up coming to Tel Aviv.
Among the Europa group winners Maccabi could face are Tottenham of England, Rubin Kazan of Russia, Valencia of Spain and Genk of Belgium.
The draw for the round of 16 will also be made in Nyon, Switzerland, on Monday following the draw for the round of 32.
Later Thursday, Maccabi Haifa completed its Group L matches when it hosted Shakhter Karagandy at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium.
Both Haifa and Karagandy lost any hope of qualifying long before Thursday’s match after collecting just two points from their first five group games.