Maccabi Haifa FC earned a remarkable UEFA Champions League victory over 1999 champions Manchester United FC with two exceptional long-range goals securing a famous 3-0 win in the GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus.
However there was a sour taste at the end for the Israeli champions because even this success was not enough to prolong their stay in the competition, Bayer 04 Leverkusen's victory over Olympiakos Piraeus FC meaning that second place in Group F is now beyond their grasp.
Yet Maccabi will savour the result and the performance for a long time to come. To start with they seemed in awe of the United team – a United team showing five changes and a handful of reserve-team players – but the power of their shooting carried the day.
Performance the key
For United the night was less about the result than the performance of their fringe players because with four previous wins in the section they had already booked their qualifying place into the second group stage.
It was their first Champions League defeat in more than a year and it denied them a club record 17th unbeaten outing in the competition. They had not been beaten since October 17 2001 when RC Deportivo La Coruña won at Old Trafford and it was the first time they had not scored away from home since March 2000.
The first two goals would have graced any stage, the opener smashed home on 40 minutes by Yaniv Katan who had scored the goal that gave Maccabi a shock lead in Manchester on Matchday One, a game that eventually ended 5-2 to United.
Katan sidestepped John O’Shea before taking vicious aim. The space he was afforded may have had something to do with an injury O'Shea had just picked up making a crucial interception as Giovani Rosso tried to play in Yakubu Ayegbeni.
Before then O'Shea and Rio Ferdinand had looked sound, lending reserve goalkeeper Ricardo López, on his first start, good protection. Elsewhere in the team Sir Alex Ferguson had also given a first starting appearance to Kieran Richardson, a week after his 18th birthday.
Richardson pulled a scoring chance wide with the score at 0-0 and Ole Gunnar Solskjær might also have done better with a first-half chance. In the main United commanded possession but the opportunism of Maccabi brooked no argument.
When Diego Forlán thundered an effort against the crossbar at the start of the second half it looked as if United still had a big part to play in the game. Yet within three minutes they went further behind with another picture-book goal.
This time it came from Lithuanian midfielder Raimondas Zutautas who strode forward and took aim with brutal power and precision, Ricardo left helpless as the left-foot shot ripped past him from fully 30 metres.
The third goal arrived 13 minutes from time from the penalty spot after Ricardo had brought down Zutautas. The goalkeeper was relieved to see the referee brandish only the yellow card but no mercy was shown by Ayegbeni as he slotted home.
By this stage United had also blooded Daniel Nardiello and in the final minutes they threw on Danish forward Mads Timm who turns 18 on Thursday.
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