December 8, 2004. Sold out Ramat Gan Stadium. It’s not every day that Maccabi Tel Aviv supporters get a chance to see fan favorite Koby Moosa try to stop the Juventus star Alessandro Del Piero. That same evening Maccabi Tel Aviv ended their European campaign in their first ever foray into the exclusive competition. Following an unsuccessful first round of matches that included three losses, Nir Klinger’s charges then defeated Ajax 2:1 with the help of the club’s top tournament goal scorer, Baruch Dego.

A win over Juventus, which was not even a thought before the group stages began or even a draw coupled with an Ajax loss would be good enough for Maccabi to advance to the UEFA Cup from third place in the group.MTA__1340873699_0981236

Klinger  decided to make a number of changes to his starting lineup including replacing keeper Liran Strauber in goal with Gal Nir. Moshiko Mishaelof played beside Oren Zitoni and Tamir Cohen in the back as Klinger decided to go with five midfielders in order to deal with the pressure from Cannavaro, Kapo, Pavel Nedved and Del Piero. As the opening whistle was blown, Maccabi had their first opportunity of the match when Zitoni’s 20 meter effort passed by Antonio Chimenti’s goal and signaled to all that this would be the Yellow-and-Blue’s best match of the tournament.

As Roy Makaay gave Bayern Munich a 1:0 lead over Ajax in Germany, Maccabi’s Cameroonian striker Emile M’Bamba fell in the box after a push from Jonathan Zebina good for a foul. French referee Alain Sars pointed to the penalty spot where Dego would coolly convert for his fourth goal of the campaign. 1:0 for Maccabi as the score would remain that way until the half sending the fans into pandemonium. Meanwhile in Munich, Ajax evened the score at 1:1 as they entered the break with the UEFA Cup spot still wide open with forty-five minutes to go.MTA__1340873724_0981239

The second half began with inspired defending by Maccabi. With Juventus pouring on the pressure in front of Gal Nir’s goal, Moosa, Strool, Giovanini and Abu Siam were able to withstand wave after wave of Bianconeri attack. That was until the 71st minute. Substitute Zambrotta’s perfectly placed free kick was headed down by Zalayeta right to the magical feet of Del Piero who scored from close range to draw Juve even at 1:1.

Ajax then took a 2:1 lead in Germany and Maccabi found themselves looking up at third place in the group. Bayern would knot up their match at 2:2, however in Ramat Gan Giovanini’s brilliant header was knocked away by Chimenti denying Maccabi victory as the fans applauded their effort but collected one point only that would not be enough to finish in third.