Soccer / Champions League / Haifa Could Go Down in History as Group Stage's Weakest Team

Zero points and zero goals after four rounds of the Champions League group stage. It's a dubious feat that has been accomplished only once before - by Belgian side Anderlecht in 2005-06 - before Maccabi Haifa embarked on its current underwhelming campaign.

Haifa lost 1-0 to Juventus in Ramat Gan on Tuesday to remain without a point, or even a goal, in Group A.

Anderlecht, for the sake of comparison, lost its fifth-round match as well, but prevailed in a meaningless final match over Spain's Real Betis 1-0.

There were other teams that finished their group-stage play without points - Fenerbahce, Spartak Moscow, Anderlecht, Rapid Vienna, Levski Sofia and Dynamo Kiev all did so in this decade alone - but all managed to score at least once, and all had done so by the fourth round.

One other team was held goalless in group play, Spain's La Coruna in 2004-05, but it walked away with two points, having drawn twice, including at Liverpool's imposing Anfield Stadium.

If Haifa's dismal fortunes persist and it fails to score even a single goal in its remaining three matches, it will earn the shameful distinction of being the only team in Champions League history to be held without a goal and without a point.

Should that happen, Haifa's Champions run this season will be remembered not only for being goalless, but absolutely and quite literally pointless.

The Italian press was unimpressed with Juventus' performance Tuesday, and, predictably, with that of its Israeli hosts.

Tuttosport, a sports daily printed in Juve's home of Turin, heaped accolades on Mauro Camoranesi (who knocked in what proved to be the winner) and Gianluigi Buffon (a living legend between the posts) but had little praise for the rest of the men on the roster of the club affectionately known as the Old Lady.

As for Haifa, it lambasted the hapless Levantines as a "team that looked tired from the burden of the Champions League."

Italy's flagship sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport, was kinder, reserving praise for midfielder Diego and Juve's other South Americans, and even for Haifa keeper Nir Davidovitch.

Haifa, Gazzetta reported, put on the performance of a "small but stubborn club."