Despite the cold night, there was not a sign of a chill at Bloomfield Stadium, where both players and staff remained for long moments on a rain-sodden pitch to celebrate together with fans the club's historic achievement of advancing to the knockout stage of the Europa League after a 1-0 home victory over French side Girondins de Bordeaux. At the UEFA draw this coming Monday, Maccabi will find out who their next opponent in the competition will be, among them the likes of such top European clubs as Italy's Napoli, England's Tottenhom Hotspurs, Spain's Valencia, Portugal's Benfica and many others.
At the end of the match, Maccabi head coach Paulo Sousa had this to say: "We put on a wonderful display this evening, the players demonstrated their maturity under very difficult conditions and that's splendid, they deserve all the kudos. We weren't given much chance (at the beginning of the competition), but we promised to play good football and take points and now the players deserve a huge amount of credit and so do our fans for their spectacular support under these conditions. It was no easy game, the rain and the wind kept us in part from playing the way we wanted. What we've achieved here, eleven points (in the group stage), is simply amazing and I'm very proud of my players". He added: "Obviously I'm part of this whole process, but the main part of the process is the players, and that's why I always want to see smiles on their faces at every practice, to see them want to learn from every match, to see them put on perforances that get the points. They've done everything they've had to until now and that's why I'm so pleased and proud to be a part of it". As for the celebrations at the end of the match he said: "That's just the kind of guy I am. I'm very emotional, both as a coach and as a human being, both during the match and afterwards. So far I'm concerned it's not just a question of winning, but to feel that victory the same way my players do". As for Maccabi's forthcoming draw for the Europa League final 32, Sousa said: "Whomever we draw is a bonus, we'll be out there as the same Maccabi Tel Aviv, whoever the opponent, and we'll be out there to make our fans proud, to bring pride to Israeli football. After what we've achieved everyone is looking at Israeli football, and the Israeli football player, a little differently and I want that to continue in our next two matches".
Team defender Omri Ben Harush had this to say after the match: "These are the greatest moments now, after an important win for us. More than that, it's eleven points in the Europa League, no-one even dreamed of something like that. I personally believed we could do it and I'm really happy about our performance, everyone shares the credit, the coach, the staff and the players. We work hard and train hard and we've earned this". The defender added: "We have a coach who has a system of rotation which I think is just great, and you can see the results. Every eleven gives it everything they have, and more. The strength of the club is in the depth of the squad". Ben Harush also had a word to say about the fans, who stood it out for the full 90 minutes in the pouring rain and never stopped cheering: "We have absolutely amazing supporters. I've never seen anything like this. It makes no difference what the weather's like, everyone is singing and cheering and you can imagine what a huge difference that makes for us players out on the pitch, we're doing it all for them too".
Midfielder Gal Alberman also talked after the match about Maccabi's European campaign: "To be perfectly honest, when we first saw the draw (for the Europa League group stage), we were quite nervous. We were in the bottom pot and above us all we saw, on paper at least, were very strong sides. But once we opened the campaign with four points, the draw with APOEL Nicosia, whom we thought we outplayed, and the win at Bordeaux, we began to realise that it was all down to us. I'm very glad we achieved this and were a match for this because it was a very difficult undertaking. We jumped hurdle after hurdle and I'm happy it brought results and that we accomplished it in such a respectable fashion". As for combining the campaign with league duties he added: "This is something the club have taken upon themselves as a goal, to distinguish themselves from what Israeli football is usually like, the goal of being competitive in both arenas. I'm happy and proud that we're succeeding in doing it because it's no mean feat, believe me. We'll be focusing our attention on the league now because we have quite a long break before the next European round. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it".