Mac. Tel Aviv Disappoints in Home Draw

Valencia, PSV Eindhoven suffer setbacks.

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Barak Itzhaki missed his big chance to hand Maccabi Tel Aviv an opening group stage victory in the Europa League when the APOEL Nicosia goalkeeper stopped his 95th-minute penalty kick at the Bloomfield Stadium last night. Nicosia thus managed to escape with a scoreless draw.

Maccabi Haifa lost 1-0 at home to AZ Alkmaar in a late match.

APOEL coach Paulo Sergio led his team to an impressive tactical performance. The Cyprus side got few chances to attack in Maccabi’s zone, but they frustrated Tel Aviv’s offense throughout the evening.

The team displayed few brilliant moments during the second half as well, save for a good chance by Tal Ben Haim, who missed a clear chance to score.
Thus, it all came down to Itzhaki, who was unable to deliver the goods.

Elsewhere, Valencia's woes deepened by losing 3-0 to Swansea, while former European champion PSV Eindhoven also slumped to a surprise defeat in the opening round of group-stage matches yesterday.

Swansea secured its greatest ever result by capitalizing on the 10th-minute sending-off of Valencia center back Adil Rami to score through Wilfried Bony, Michu and Jonathan de Guzman at the Mestalla.

It proved too much for one section of Valencia fans, which emptied the stand in the bottom tier behind one of the goals for 10 minutes at the start of the second half in protest. The team, traditionally one of the biggest in Spain, has also lost three of its first four matches in La Liga.

Bulgarian minnow Ludogorets Razgrad provided a second upset of the night by scoring twice in the final half hour to win 2-0 at PSV, but Fiorentina restored some normality by easing past Pacos Ferreira 3-0, with Gonzalo Rodriguez, Ryder Matos and Giuseppe Rossi all scoring.

Eintracht Frankfurt crushed Bordeaux 3-0 and there were also wins for Salzburg and Rubin Kazan in the early kickoffs.

Valencia went down to its biggest home loss in Europe since a 5-1 defeat to Inter Milan in 2004, and the writing was on the wall as soon as Rami was given a straight red for pulling back Bony when the striker was through on goal. Swansea, which fielded more Spanish players in its team (six) than Valencia, toyed with the hosts at times with its easy-on-the-eye passing game in the Group A fixture.

Maccabi Haifa's Ruben Rayos taking on the Astra defense at Kirat Eliezer.`Credit: Sharon Bukov