MTA CELEBRATE

Maccabi celebrate securing Champions League football

Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv booked their place in the group stage of this season’s Champions League after they beat Swiss side FC Basel on the away goals rule.

Coming into Tuesday night’s second leg in Israel on the back of a 2-2 draw in Switzerland last week, Luca Zuffi had put Basel on front with an 11th minute free-kick. However, Eran Zahavi drew Maccabi level, scoring his third goal of the tie and seventh in the competition overall, as the Israelis held on for the win to secure what will be just their second appearance in this stage of the competition.

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach Slaviša Jokanović said: “I am really proud that we will bring the best teams and players in Europe to Israel. We will try to improve before the group stage and we will have a great autumn. I am happy for my players, my family and the fans too. Now it is part of history. This is an important day for Israeli football. I believe in our team spirit and with our fans around us we are stronger and braver.

Basel coach Urs Fischer said: “There is not a lot to say – we didn’t get the luck and we didn’t find the recipe to stop Maccabi. What can we say about Zahavi? He beat us single-handed in both matches. In both games Maccabi defended well and gave us a lot of problems. It hurts a lot and we weren’t clever enough. I want to wish Maccabi good luck in the Champions League.”

Maccabi will find out the three sides they face in the group stage in Thursday afternoon’s draw.