Maccabi Tel Aviv returned to Europe’s grand stage for the first time in eleven years as they took on English Premier League Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Matchday One of the UEFA Champions League Group Stages.
Yellow-and-Blue Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic a one-time Chelsea player himself started with captain Eran Zahavi up top with Tal Ben Chaim and Avi Rikan on his wings. Back in the midfield were Nosa Igiebor, Nikola Mitrovic and Gal Alberman along with Yuval Shpungin at right back, Tal Ben Haim and Eitan Tibi as central defenders and Omri Ben Harush as the left back. Predrag Rajkovic manned the Maccabi goal as the youngster was making his first ever Champions League start. For Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, a star studded lineup graced the pitch and included Eden Hazard, Oscar, Cesc Fabregas, Gary Cahill and Willian.
The match started with Chelsea pressuring Maccabi looking for a turnover early on in the match and that’s exactly what happened. A poor clearing pass by Ben Haim found an eager Willian who was tripped up in the box by Maccabi ‘keeper Predrag Rajkovic, allowing Belgium superstar Hazard a penalty opportunity from 11 meters. However he skied his chance leaving the match scoreless early on.
Willian then lined up a free kick from the left side as his intended cross wasn’t picked up by anyone and landed to the right of the Maccabi ‘keeper Rajkovic and into the back of the goal to give the hosts a 1:0 lead in the 15th minute.
In the 23rd minute Willian went out with an injury as striker Diego Costa replaced him up front to add more firepower to the already potent Chelsea lineup. But in the 31st minute Maccabi had their first chance of the game as Mitrovic whipped in a free kick from the right side that Zahavi just headed over the Chelsea goal. Zahavi would have another chance in the 40th minute but his opportunity went wide.
As time wound down in the first half and with Chelsea pressuring, Ben Haim mistimed a tackle on Costa in the box that led to Chelsea’s second penalty of the evening. This time the opportunity was converted by Oscar as the whistle blew to end the first frame with Chelsea up 2:0.
With the help of over 4,000 Maccabi supporters in the stands the Yellow-and-Blue began the second half with renewed vigor as Rikan and Igibeor combined for Maccabi’s best chance of the match in the 56th minute that went for a corner kick. But just minutes later, Costa scored his first Chelsea Champions League goal as he launched a Fabregas pass into the top right hand corner of the Maccabi goal in the 59th minute to put Chelsea comfortably ahead 3:0.
In an attempt to jumpstart the offense, Jokanovic made a double substitution in the 65th minute bringing in Dejan Radonjic and Dor Micha for Avi Rikan and Tal Ben Chaim while Chelsea brought in Ramires for Oscar. Shpungin was replaced by Dor Peretz in the 70th minute as Maccabi used their 3rd and final substitution with 20 minutes remaining in the match.
Maccabi went downfield in numbers but when their chances came up short, Chelsea went the opposite direction with a tic-tac-toe combo goal from Hazard to Remy to Fabregas who tapped it home to sew up a Chelsea 4:0 win over the Yellow-and-Blue at Stamford Bridge.