Never mind the Turks - Maccabi Tel Aviv should apologize to its fans after last night's abject defensive performance in Istanbul. After all the pre-match tension surrounding the encounter, Maccabi failed to turn the game into a sporting competition, capitulating to five soft goals from Besiktas on the way to a 5-1 loss.
Besiktas' Fiyapi Inonu Stadium near the Bosphorus was a near-capacity cauldron of noise and fervor, as the home side's vociferous fans made their feeling known about Israel in no uncertain terms. However the local police managed to keep things from getting out of hand. Maccabi was another story.
Tel Aviv took to the field with five midfielders and Roberto Colautti cutting a lone figure in attack, in an attempt to stifle the opposition and prevent its lively front line from receiving quality possession.
But the writing was on the wall after only three minutes, when the hosts' Portuguese striker Hugo Almeida found himself unmarked in the box and slid the ball past Maccabi's inexperienced goalkeeper Guy Haimov.
After such a lively opening, the hosts went off the boil and one of Maccabi's rare forays upfield almost produced a goal, but Moanes Dabour was judged offside.
Maccabi play in Turkey
Yoav Ziv was proving to be Maccabi's most dangerous player, repeatedly finding space on the right side of the midfield. After 25 minutes Ziv produced a powerful drive that stretched Besiktas' goalkeeper Rustu Recber.
But just as Maccabi appeared to getting back into the game, a long diagonal cross found Almeida completely unmarked in the penalty box, and although Haimov was equal to his first attempt, the Portuguese had a simple task to stroke the rebound home for 2-0.
Soon after the break, Maccabi pulled back a goal that briefly silenced the stadium, as Eliran Atar's floated cross from the left was met by the powerful forehead of Roi Kahat. But within two minutes the hosts regained their two-goal cushion when Mehmet Aurelio was again left unmarked in the penalty box to head in Manuel Fernandes's sublime free kick without hindrance.
Maccabi's moribund defense was again guilty only three minutes later, watching idly as Egemen Korkmaz was handed a free chance to head past Haimov from five meters to make it 4-1.
With the game over as a competition, both teams threw caution to the winds and had a goal apiece disallowed for offside, but the difference in standards was only too obvious. Time and again the Turks' tactic of pumping high balls exposed Maccabi's defense and almost produced another goal.
Besiktas scored a fifth in garbage time as the Turkish outfit cut through Maccabi's porous defense almost at will and Brazilian forward Edu was presented with a simple chance to score.
Hapoel in disarray
Hapoel Tel Aviv's owner Eli Tabib returned from a business trip in time to watch his team lose its opening game of the Europa League 1-0 to Rapid Bucharest at Bloomfield Stadium last night - and said after the game that the club needs a thorough shake-up. Hapoel was looking to emulate its last European campaign under coach Dror Kashtan, when an excellent run in the 2001-2 season took the team as far as the quarterfinals of the EUFA Cup, only to lose to Milan. But this time around, it seems Kashtan lacks quality players.
Playing against a well-marshaled, tactical lineup, the hosts had difficulty finding a way through the Romanians' packed midfield. And when they did, Bucharest's goalkeeper Danut Coman was in no mood to let them find the net.
After an uneventful opening period, Hapoel gifted the visitors a goal in the 55th minute, leaving Nicolae Grigore alone in the box to head home Rui Duarte's floated cross. As the home fans' frustration grew, Hapoel threw away a series of opportunities to draw level in the second half. Five minutes from the end of the game, Salim Toama should have scored, but the outstretched Coman was equal to Toama's shot.
Hapoel midfielder Avihai Yadin lost his cool and was sent off in the last minute of regular time for kicking Rapid's Romeo Surdu, who was also red-carded for his part in the fracas. Two minutes into injury time, Coman was again equal to Toto Tomuz's last-ditch effort at achieving parity.
Maccabi Haifa also failed to produce a convinicing performance last night, yet beat Larnaka of Cyprus 1-0 through a Mohammad Ghadir goal in the first half.
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