Haifa go out of Champions League with a whimper

By Danny Caro, December 9, 2009
Follow Danny on Twitter

Maccabi Haifa’s Champions League campaign ended in humiliation as they were beaten 1-0 at home by Bordeaux on Tuesday. The defeat means that the Israeli champions lost all six matches and failed to score a single goal in Group A.

As per the corresponding fixture in France, Bordeaux won by a single goal with Jussie’s 13th minute proving decisive. The match was a dead rubber for the visitors who had already won the group.

The French side were so depleted that they were only able to name four players on the bench, compared to Haifa’s seven.

With Haifa captain Yaniv Katan and Gustavo Boccoli both out injured, Haifa, who lie six points clear in the Israeli Premier Division, where they have won 11 out of 12 matches, welcomed back Eyal Golasa and Lior Refaelov.

The Greens began brightly, pressing their opponents from the outset, yet were unable to turn early superiority into goals and soon paid the penalty.

Tsepo Masilela missed his kick as he attempted a clearance and Abdou Traoré took full advantage, chipping delightfully to the far post where the advancing Jussiê thumped into the roof of the net. Haifa promptly escaped falling two goals behind as they were caught on the counterattack following a corner, but while Nir Davidovitch was beaten by Jussiê’s fierce drive, Dekel Keinan acrobatically blocked on the line.

The hosts took time to regroup but then came close twice in a minute, Mohamad Ghadir directing a volley straight at Ulrich Ramé and Vladimer Dvalishvili shooting into the side-netting. Yet it was not until just before half time that the Bordeaux goalkeeper was called into action, diving to his right to keep out Refaelov’s fierce drive from the edge of the area.

Refaelov continued in similar vein as the second half got under way, threatening with a right-foot shot that flew just wide. Seeking to press home the advantage, Elisha Levy introduced Shlomi Arbeitman hoping Haifa’s top scorer could finally break the Israeli champions' duck in this season's competition, but instead it took a perfectly-timed tackle from Jorge Teixeira to prevent Jussiê doubling their deficit.

Another replacement, Talb Tawatha, nearly made more of an impact as his ball from the left was parried by Ramé into the path of Refaelov; the midfielder volleyed over. David Bellion did likewise at the opposite end with an acrobatic effort.

The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Haifa stalwart Alon Harazi who came on for the last 19 minutes. He received a standing ovation from the Ramat Gan faithful. It was the 38-year-old’s 720th and last match for the club before he takes on a scouting role. He made his 66th European outing a club he has been at the club since 1990.

Before the game, Harazi , who was presented with a framed shirt, said: “It was very exciting to play for the final time at Kiryat Eliezer, especially in a forward position. I started my career as a striker and ended it as striker which was like coming full circle, but every good thing must end some time and I'm leaving the stage to a younger generation."

But even he was unable to inspire the team to break a European goal drought that has lasted 540 minutes. It is hard to believe that this is the same team that beat Glentoran 10-0 on aggregate in the qualifying rounds.

They became only the second team that has failed to hit the target in the group stage. In 2004/05, Deportivo La Coruna did not net, but the Spaniards at least managed to collect two points.

Bayern Munich finished second in the group after coming from behind to beat Juventus 4-1 in Turin.

Haifa: Nir Davidovitch, Jorge Teixeira, Jhon Jairo Culma, Vladimer Dvalishvili (sub: Shlomi Arbeitman 54), Eyal Golasa (sub: Alon Harazi 71), Mohammad Ghadir, Tsepo Masilela (sub: Talk Tawatha 62), Dekel Keinan, Baram Kayal, Lior Refaelov, Eyal Meshumar

Subs: Amir Edri, Shai Maymon, Ali Osman, Israel Zaguri

Booked: Culma 39

Bordeaux: Ulrich Rame, Fernando, Franck Jurietti, Jussie, David Bellion, Diego Placentre, Wendel, Henri Saivet, Adbou Traore (sub: Gregory Sertic 72), Ludovic Sane

Subs: Abdoulaye Keita, Paul Lasne, Christopher Glombard

Goal: Jussie 13

    Last updated: 3:28pm, December 10 2009