Maccabi Haifa has proven once again that they are the top team in Israeli soccer. Just ahead of facing Paris St. Germain in UEFA Champions League play, Haifa moved into sole possession of first place after defeating Sektzia Nes Ziona 3-1 thanks to an Omer Atzily brace as the hosts took the 3-points at Sammy Ofer Stadium.
Atzily gave the Greens the lead in the 22nd minute but Freddy Plumain scored his club’s first goal of the season just three minutes later to even up the game as the match headed into the second half all knotted up at 1-1. But it didn’t take long for Atzily to break the deadlock as he headed home the ball in the 52nd minute and Tjaron Chery added an insurance marker soon thereafter from 25 meters to sew up the win.
“We are in the midst of a very busy period of time and there are players who have not played with one another that much,” Haifa coach Barak Bachar explained. “Somethings are going well while others still need some work. We didn’t play as a team enough and I didn’t like how we controlled the ball and we could have scored more, but I am not going to complain after a win.”
“I’m proud of my players and they came into this matchup to work hard and battle,” Nes Ziona coach Nir Berkovic said. “However, there is a gap between the two teams and we weren’t able to take a point but we will continue on our way as we look to find points against Hapoel Tel Aviv.”
This will be the second time in as many months that PSG will be playing Israel after having won the French Cup back in August over Nantes at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv. The Ligue 1 leaders will once again be with superstar and icon Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr. and Sergio Ramos along with Kylian Mbappe as they will look to win their second continental game in a row after stopping Juventus 2-1 last week.
Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi, the head of the French club is expected to lead the PSG delegation into Israel while PSG are treating this game with the highest level of importance as they held their final training session and pre-match press conference on Tuesday in France instead of Sammy Ofer Stadium.
As for Haifa, they will try to record their first goal and points of the competition after falling at Benfica 2-0 in their first game. The game itself will be attended by over 30,000 supporters with fans not being allowed to wear PSG jerseys in Haifa fan section along with a large presence of police and security personnel as some say that the organization of the match itself is at the same level of the Champions League final.
Haifa captain Neta Lavi looked at the club’s situation while also playing in the Champions League, “Going from playing in Europe to the league is not simple, but we are doing it while scoring goals and winning as well so that is great. We are trying our best to do the maximum we can in every match. We have a very good squad that has quality depth and I am happy that everyone is getting playing time as we keep winning.”