ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Soccer

Lights out for Maccabi Haifa as dominant PSG clobbers Israelis 7-2

Messi and Mbappe score twice for potent Paris squad in shellacking, ending Haifa soccer squad’s long-shot hopes of advancing past the Champions League group stage for first time

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his team's fifth goal  during the UEFA Champions League Group H second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Maccabi Haifa FC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 25, 2022. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his team's fifth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Maccabi Haifa FC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 25, 2022. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

A seven-goal dose of reality smacked Maccabi Haifa squarely in the face Tuesday night, as the Israeli soccer team was walloped by Paris Saint-German in Champions League play Tuesday night, ending any chance for the club to finally advance past the group stage of the European tourney.

Playing at Paris’s Parc des Princes, the star-packed PSG was back in classic form, with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbape scoring two times apiece to lead the French team to a 7-2 victory.

Neymar got in on the action too, and the Brazilian also forced an own goal from Maccabi defender Sean Goldberg before Carlos Soler completed the rout.

Both of Maccabi’s goals came from Senegalese defender Abdoulaye Seck, who managed to bring Haifa to within two scores before the Parisians ran away with the game, netting seven goals in a Champions League for the first time since 2017.

“We were up against world-class players, and they showed it. … It’s never pleasant to concede seven goals, but I get the feeling we gave our all,” Haifa coach Barak Bakhar said after the game. “We thought we could work a miracle, but there really was a big gulf between the two teams.”

The lopsided result was a far cry from the previous match between the two teams on September 14, in which an exultant Maccabi played the stunned French team close for nearly 90 minutes before an ecstatic home crowd, even holding the lead against the world-class powerhouse for 13 minutes before going down 3-1.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (C) fights for the ball with Maccabi Haifa’s French defender Dylan Batubinsika during the UEFA Champions League Group H second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Maccabi Haifa FC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 25, 2022. (Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

This time, Maccabi appeared thoroughly dazed and confused on defense, allowing Messi to open the goalfest in the 19th minute with a shot across goalkeeper Josh Cohen and into the far corner of the net with the outside of his left boot, following an assist from Mbappe.

Mbappe needed treatment after being sent crashing into the advertising boards by Seck, but he quickly recovered to make it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark with a beautiful curling strike into the same corner.

Less than three minutes passed before Neymar took a pass from Messi in nearly the same spot and shot it into the goal. Seck quickly made the score 3-1 with a header off an Omer Atzili dead-ball delivery, but any thoughts of a comeback would prove to be shortlived.

Just before the half, Messi linked up brilliantly with Mbappe again before jinking his way into a shooting position and burying a shot into the bottom-left corner.

Seck pulled a second goal back five minutes into the second half with a looping header over Gianluigi Donnarumma for 4-2. It took 14 more minutes for Mbappe to make it 5-2 as he controlled Achraf Hakimi’s cross and whipped a stunning shot into the far corner from the left side of the box.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) celebrates with Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Maccabi Haifa FC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 25, 2022. ( Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

Goldberg’s own goal soon after put an exclamation mark on Haifa’s lackluster night and substitute Soler knocked in a final goal in the 84th minute for good measure.

“We weren’t really ready to face what we faced tonight,” Haifa midfielder Tjaronn Chery said after the game. “We weren’t sharp enough, and they are world-class players.”

The loss means Maccabi is eliminated from advancing out of the group stage, a mission it has failed to accomplish now all three times it has made it this far in the premier UEFA tournament. A win last week against Italy’s Juventus, its first victory in Champions League group play in nearly 20 years, had briefly stoked long-shot hopes that Maccabi could move to the round of 16 for the first time ever.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Brazilian forward Neymar (L) runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group H second leg football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Maccabi Haifa FC at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 25, 2022. (Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Instead, both PSG and Benfica will move on from Group H, although it will come down to next week’s final matchday to decide who advances in first place and therefore benefits from a theoretically kinder draw in the next round.

Maccabi is still hoping to clinch third place in the group and a spot in the Europa League tournament when it faces off against Benfica at home on November 2 to close out its campaign. Hopes will also rest on PSG beating Juventus, which fell 4-3 to Benfica Tuesday.

“We still believe we can qualify [for the Europa League]; we can finish third. We have our destiny in our hands, and we’re playing at home,” Bakhtar said. “Benfica are a great team, but I have asked the Paris coach to do the business by beating Juventus.”

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