Champions League 2004/05 – Group Stage
The Champions Leauge draw places Maccabi Tel Aviv in Group C with three former European champions: Bayern Munich, Italian Juventus and Ajax Amsterdam. This was only the second time an Israeli had team qualified for the Champions League Group Stage; Maccabi Haifa got there with a historical win two years earlier. After six home and away games, Nir Klinger's players closed the Group Stage in fourth and last place with the same number of points as Ajax, but an inferior goal difference. The team had achieved one victory, one tie, and four losses, with four goals, all by Baruch Dego.
Round 1: Maccabi Tel Aviv – Bayern Munich 0:1
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s historic first game in the Group Stage of the Champions League was played on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, greatly reducing the number of fans at Ramat Gan Stadium. The 1,000 fans who had left their dinner tables enjoyed a good dessert as Nir Klinger’s team played a solid and stubborn first half. After 45 minutes with no goals, the teams took a break. The second half opened with the guests putting pressure on Maccabi’s defense and an attack by Ze Roberto at the 64th minute ended with a tackle by Tel Aviv's defender John Pantsil. Dutch forward Roy Makaay made an accurate penalty kick and set the Yellows’ first loss in the Group Stage.
Round 2: Juventus – Maccabi Tel Aviv 1:0
Maccabi Tel Aviv played at the Delle Alpi Stadium to nearly empty bleachers, fantasizing about their first points in the Group Stage. For a while, Juventus stars David Trezeguet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pavel Nedved seemed to play only in second gear, failing to display the moves the "Old Lady's" fans had come to expect. From the other side, Erez Mesika, Tamir Cohen and Ghanaian forward Ishmael Addo tried their luck up close, but failed to find the net. Maccabi surrendered to an offside kick at the 37th minute. Nedved lifted on the left, Strauber came out but failed to block the goal and a header from Camoranesi from 5 meters away found its way in. The Yellows closed another respectable appearance without any points.
Round 3: Ajax – Maccabi Tel Aviv 3:0
The prior two rounds had been "dignified losses", but this gameat the Amsterdam Arena taught Klinger's players a lesson in European football. The Dutch champion, which had lost the first two rounds, charged Liran Strauber's net from the very beginning. At the 4th minute, a block by Maccabi’s goalkeeper went into the center of the field and ended with a goal by Wesley Sonck. At the 21st minute, the hosts once again embarrassed the Yellows’ defense. Strauber left the goal to the left and De Jong hit a header from just 2 meters away. In the 33rd minute, Strauber managed to save a header by Van der Vaart, but the Dutch rebound found its way into the net.
Round 4: Maccabi Tel Aviv – Ajax 2:1
Depressed by their failure in Amsterdam and without any goals in its first three games, Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted Ajax at Ramat Gan Stadium. Here, the Yellows stormed out with a different game than their previous encounters. After the first 10 minutes, Baruch Dego had already hit a header to the goalpost. After a first half showing a slight advantage to Tel Aviv, the teams went to halftime with a clean goal. Four minutes into the second half, Baruch Dego made history with Maccabi Tel Aviv's first goal in the Group Stage. Ishmael Addo hit the ball to the center and Dego came up from behind to kick straight into the Dutch goal. The Yellows’ 20,000 fans kept cheering the goal and Dego scored again in the 57th minute. Heitinga sent a weak back-pass to Stekelenburg. The Ajax goalkeeper tried to kick it away, but Dego put his foot down and the ball hit him and rolled in. With two minutes to go, De Ridder deflected a low drive and reduced the difference. At the end of the game, Dego said: "I dreamed of one goal, I scored two".
Round 5: Bayern Munich – Maccabi Tel Aviv 5:1
Encouraged by the victory, the Yellows set their sights on third place, which would lead to the UEFA Cup. To get there, they had to win at Olympia Stadium in Munich. Felix Magath's team was five times better than the Maccabi Tel Aviv players, who found solace only in Baruch Dego’s one goal. Claudio Pizarro (12'), Hasan Slihamidzic (37') and defender Torsten Frings (44') sealed the deal even before halftime. After Baruch Dego's penalty kick into legendary goalkeeper Olvier Kahn's net at the 56th minute, Roy Makaay, who scored in Ramat Gan, contributed another pair of his own (71', 80') and set the final score of the game.
Round 6: Maccabi Tel Aviv – Juventus 1:1
On the eve of the final round, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Ajax, each with only three points, hosted Juventus and Bayern Munich, which had already guaranteed their spots in the next stage. Ajax had a better goal ratio, so Maccabi needed more points than the Dutch rival in order to qualify for the UEFA Cup from third place. In the 9th minute, Roy Makaay put Ajax in a bind when he gave Bayern Munich an advantage. Twenty minutes later, at Ramat Gan Stadium, Emile Mbamba was tripped on the pitch and Baruch Dego scored his fourth goal of the competition with a penalty kick.
By the end of the half, Ajax had scored a tie, which would qualify Maccabi for the next stage. After 20 minutes of the second half, Ajax scored its second goal, qualifying themselves. A single error in the Tel Aviv defense at the 71st minute led to a tie: Gianluca Zambrotta kicked into the air from the left. Kapo firmly sent it down into the penalty area where Del Piero was stationed, easily kicking it into the net. In the 78th minute, Michael Ballack evened the score at the Amsterdam Arena, but the Yellows failed to score another goal and lost the third place due to an inferior goal difference.