Maccabi Haifa coach Itzhak Shum was thrilled with his side's 3-0 win against Olympiakos Piraeus FC tonight - their first ever in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League - calling it one of the biggest events in his life. "I was proud to be an Israeli tonight but I was even more proud to be Maccabi coach," he said.
Delight for Shum
As a player, Shum turned out for Israel in the Olympics and the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, but said: "Tonight was the biggest game I have participated in during my career. I would still have been happy with 1-0 but we were worth it today, scoring three times and conceding none which makes me very happy. I am especially happy due to the fact that we had conceded eight goals in the last two European games."
Nigerian international forward Yakubu Ayegbeni was the star of the night for the Ligat ha-Al side, scoring a superb hat-trick to leave Maccabi's opponents in disarray. A penalty and two great finishes from open play saw him leave the GSP stadium in Nicosia with the match ball.
"I am very happy. I would rather stay with Maccabi than go to Derby County [FC]," Ayegbeni said referring to his proposed summer move to the English first division club which fell through when he could not secure a work permit.
Giovani Rosso, who set up the third goal for Ayegbeni was unflinching in his praise for the forward. "He is not only a young striker with amazing ability but is probably the best striker I have ever played with," he said. "I am privileged to play with such a tremendous talent who will play for one of the big clubs sooner than we can imagine."
Defender Alon Harazi spoke up for the Maccabi supporters who travelled to Cyprus for what is technically a home game because of fears over the safety of supporters and players if his side's home games had been played in Israel due to the current political situation. "It's a shame they have had to come such a long way," he said. "I am happy about tonight, though - it's an amazing achievement."
'Hard to believe'
Maccabi captain Arik Benardo was equally ecstatic as was the mood throughout the Israeli side's camp. "Even now I've showered and put my suit on I still find it hard to believe we won 3-0."
'Never thought we would lose'
Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis was clearly less pleased as his side failed to build on their 6-2 win at home against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday One. The visitors had dominated possession in Nicosia, and Lemonis could not quite believe that they had still managed to suffer such an emphatic defeat. "You sometimes think you might lose a game but I never thought we would lose 3-0," he said.
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