Maccabi Haifa 3-0 Olympiakos Piraeus FC
A stunning hat-trick from Maccabi Haifa centre-forward Yakubu Ayegbeni was the difference between the two sides on a hot night in Cyprus in this UEFA Champions League Group F match.
Strikes in the 26th, 60th and 86th minutes from Ayegbeni, suspended for last week's 5-2 defeat at Manchester United FC, sealed a win which flattered the home side, as Olympiakos dominated the game with lengthy spells of possession but failed to convert any chances.
Ayegbeni by contrast was first-rate. Maccabi took the lead after 27 minutes when midfield player Walid Badier was brought down inside the right edge of the Olympiakos penalty area by defender Georgios Anatolakis. Ayegbeni stood up to shoot Maccabi into the lead with a well-taken penalty into the bottom right-hand corner of Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos's goal.
Olympiakos failed to assert themselves at all in the opening 45 minutes despite a fair share of the posession, particularly in midfield where the bulk of the game was played out. Former Real Madrid CF and France midfield player Christian Karembeu was at the heart of the early action but it was Maccabi who showed more of a cutting edge.
Striker Yaniv Katan and midfield player Nenad Pralija both shot just wide in the opening 20 minutes as Maccabi sought to stamp their authority on the game at their adopted home in Nicosia. The second 45 minutes followed the same pattern, with Olympiakos driving forward but lacking conviction around the Maccabi goal.
The visitors pressed forward relentlessly but from nowhere Ayegbeni struck the second and decisive goal on the hour mark. Collecting the ball on the edge of the Greek side's penalty area, he held off a challenge from full-back Christos Patsatzoglou to turn brilliantly and slide the ball into the far bottom corner of the net from 12 metres. A true centre-forward's goal and extremely well taken.
Ejiofor in form
Olympiakos to their great credit kept up the possession and had half chances aplenty, but Eric Ejiofor was superb in the centre of defence for the home side. Throughout the second period it seemed like the Israeli side would wilt under pressure, but when a goal did come, it was another for Maccabi.
Ayegbeni completed his hat-trick by stealing in front of a flat-footed Olympiakos defence and firing into the net from around the penalty spot - another truly impressive finish which will have caught the attention of many in the Champions League tonight.
Wide open group
With the side they met in Group F last week, United, securing a 2-1 win away at their next opponents, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Maccabi now know that the battle to qualify for a place in the second group stage is wide open. Olympiakos, meanwhile, have a trip to Old Trafford to look forward to on Matchday Three.
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