Middle East

Juventus on verge of CL elimination after 2-0 loss at Haifa

HAIFA, Israel (AP) — Juventus descended further into crisis and was left on the verge of elimination from the Champions League following a 2-0 loss at Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday that also included an injury to key winger Ángel Di María.

Omer Atzili scored two first-half goals as Haifa earned its first Champions League win in two decades.

Juventus was left third in Group H with two games to play.

Paris Saint-Germain, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Benfica, leads the group with eight points, followed by Benfica (also with 8), Juventus (3) and Haifa (3).

It’s the first time Juventus — a two-time European champion — has lost three of its first four group matches.

“Unfortunately, these things happen in soccer,” Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado said. “We’ve got to try to turn the page as soon as possible … We can only emerge from this situation if we’re united.”

Juventus is also struggling in Serie A and lost 2-0 to AC Milan on Saturday, leaving the Bianconeri eighth with just three wins in nine matches.

Still, Juventus CEO Maurizio Arrivabene said before the game in Haifa that the club had “absolute faith” in coach Massimiliano Allegri.

“The coach is doing everything to get us back on track,” Cuadrado said at the final whistle. “We are all a team and it’s more the fault of those of us on the field. We must give more, starting from the more experienced players. We need to have faith in ourselves as a team and a family. We have emerged from many difficult situations before and this is an opportunity to do it again.”

Allegri insisted he would stay in place and try to turn things around, adding that the team would go into a punitive retreat until a derby with Torino on Saturday.

“It is difficult to explain,” the coach said. “We just have to keep quiet, work and get out of this situation. … It’s a duty toward the club, the fans and above all ourselves.”

An early exit from the Champions League would be particularly painful for Juventus’ finances after the club recently posted a record loss.

Juventus was eliminated by Villarreal in the first knockout round of last season’s Champions League.

It was Haifa’s first Champions League win since beating Manchester United 3-0 in 2002.

Atzili put Haifa ahead seven minutes in by using his back to deflect a cross from the center of the area amid a crowd of defenders. His second was a precise shot into the near corner after faking a shot to the other side of the net.

Tjaronn Chery also hit the crossbar in the first-half onslaught from Haifa.

Things then went from bad to worse for Juve when Di María pulled up clutching the back of his right leg — prompting the Argentina international to exit immediately.

Di María provided all three assists when Juventus beat Haifa 3-1 last week.

Juventus was beaten 2-1 both by PSG and Benfica in its opening two games.


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: AP News

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