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Zahavi strike ensures Maccabi edge out Basel

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-1 FC Basel (agg: 3-3, Maccabi win on away goals)
Eran Zahavi's 24th-minute goal cancelled out Luca Zuffi's opener and took the Israeli champions into the group stage for only the second time.

Basel's Breel Embolo (left) tussles with Eytan Tibi of Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Basel's Breel Embolo (left) tussles with Eytan Tibi of Maccabi Tel-Aviv ©Getty Images
  • Maccabi Tel-Aviv reach group stage for second time at expense of FC Basel
  • Luca Zuffi gives visitors early lead with a wonderful free-kick (11)
  • Eran Zahavi's seventh goal of this season's competition levels (24)
  • Israeli side's only previous group stage appearance came in 2004/05
  • Group stage draw in Monaco on Thursday at 17.45CET

Maccabi Tel-Aviv reached the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in a decade by withstanding a second-half FC Basel barrage in Tel Aviv and progressing thanks to a characteristically composed finish from Eran Zahavi. 

Needing a positive start having been held 2-2 at home in last week's play-off first leg, Basel were quickly out of the blocks and Davide Callà had already turned one opportunity over the crossbar by the time they took the lead in the 11th minute. Luca Zuffi had never scored in the UEFA Champions League but the midfielder's wonderful curling free-kick gave Juan Pablo no chance and the visitors an excellent start.

Basel celebrate taking the lead
Basel celebrate taking the lead©Getty Images

In contrast to Zuffi, Maccabi's principal goal threat was obvious. Zahavi had scored six times in four games in this season's competition already, so when Nikola Mitrović lifted a pass over the visiting defence, there was only likely to be one outcome. So it proved as the Maccabi captain beat Tomáš Vaclík at the near post.

Pablo tipped over Walter Samuel's header as Basel attempted to regain the initiative before half-time and Taulant Xhaka fired narrowly wide just past the hour as Urs Fischer's side continued to search in vain.

Basel dominated possession and territory throughout the second period yet were unable to force the goal that would have earned their third successive group campaign and instead it was Slaviša Jokanović's team who were celebrating at the final whistle.

Reaction
Slaviša Jokanović, Maccabi Tel-Aviv coach
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.

Urs Fischer, Basel coach
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.