Maccabi Haifa lost 2-0 against Benfica Lisbon on Tuesday evening September 6 in the first day of the Champions League group matches. The Haifa squad resumed their European campaign where they left off: they couldn’t keep the ball in the net.
In a group that also included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus Turin, Haifa managed to keep pace with Benfica for most of the game, but failed to score.
The Israeli team is participating in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time since 2009-2010. During this campaign, they were the first team not to score a single goal or draw in their six matches.
Benfica, which has won the Champions League title twice in its history, however appeared to be Haifa’s best chance of a surprise. In the first 45 minutes at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon, Maccabi’s defense was able to keep the Portuguese team at bay, allowing them to have just one shot on target.
But things changed quickly after the break when Benfica’s striker, Rafa Silva, receiving a pass from Alejandro Grimaldo, deceived Josh Cohen in the 49th minute.
Maccabi had a chance to equalize three minutes later, but Tjaronn Chery’s shot went over the top, and moments later Grimaldo ended all worries with a powerful shot under the goal.
Maccabi manager Barak Bakhar has admitted his team is not used to Benfica’s quick attacks.
“We had chances but we didn’t use them, the speed was higher than we are used to, but we will make corrections and come back ready for the next game,” he said.
Maccabi’s next match will be against PSG of Messi, Neymar, Mbappé and others at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.
The top two teams from each group will qualify after playing two games over the next few months.
Haifa qualified for the group stage last month against Belgrade by scoring in the 90th minute, prompting cheers in Haifa and elsewhere in Israel, where football success is rare.
Maccabi is the first Israeli team to reach the group stage of the Champions League three times. No Israeli team has ever made it past the group stage.
Among the 32 teams participating in the tournament, Maccabi Haifa ranks last in the UEFA rankings based on European results for the past five seasons.