Ghana internationals John Pantsil and goal scorer Ishamel Addo played a major part as Maccabi Tel Aviv took a major step to a first-ever appearance in the group stage of the Champions League when it stunned PAOK Thessaloniki 2-1 in Greece last night, leaving the Greeks a formidable task for the return leg in Tel Aviv.
Coach Nir Klinger opened with a defensive line up, leaving Eli Biton, Baruch Dago and Reuven Oved on the bench, but after soaking up some early pressure it was Maccabi that went ahead at the 13-minute mark. Ishmael Addo found himself clear against the Greek goalkeeper after Erez Mesika cut through the PAOK defense with a long pass, and from close range the Ghana striker made no mistake, rolling the ball into the net to give Maccabi a precious away goal and sent the 28,000 crowd into shock.
PAOK poured forward in search of an equalizer, but Maccabi `keeper Liran Strauber was in outstanding form, stopping several sure shots at goal. On the stroke of half time, Maccabi doubled its lead when Erez Mesika sent a curling shot from the left hand side of the box past the outstretched fingertips of the PAOK `keeper.
Maccabi retreated into defense in the second half, and on 50 minutes pulled a goal back through Cypriot striker Yiasoumis Yiasoumi after Salim Abu Siam fumbled a clearance. PAOK attacked desperately for the remainder of the game, but failed to get past Strauber as Maccabi hung on for victory.
Klinger tried to calm the euphoria after the game, saying Maccabi had been in situations where it had uncorked the champagne prematurely.
Klinger could find himself without Ghana internationals John Pantsil and goal scorer Ishamel Addo, who will be on Olympic duty next week. Ghana have already said they will not release the two if the team makes it through to the advanced stage of the Olympic soccer tournament.