Pantsil laments penalty error after Bayern defeat

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The Independent Football

John Pantsil, the Maccabi Tel Aviv defender, apologised to supporters yesterday after giving away a penalty that marred a battling performance by the Israeli club in their Champions' League match with Bayern Munich on Wednesday night.

Maccabi were making their competition debut in the Group C tie, which they lost 1-0 to a Roy Makaay penalty in the 64th minute.

"As a professional, I should never have made a mistake like that," the Ghanaian defender said after conceding the penalty with a rash foul on Ze Roberto. "I owe an apology to the fans and I promise that we will not disgrace them and the country again. I don't know what to say, we lost because of me."

With no newspapers appearing in Israel yesterday because of the Jewish New Year holiday, the only reactions to the disappointing defeat were published on the papers' websites.

"The appearance of an Israeli team in the Champions' League is not an exhibition but a part of the graduation and improvement process of Israeli soccer to that which we watch on TV (from abroad)," wrote Ron Amikam, a Maariv columnist.

The first Champions' League match played on Israeli soil at the National Stadium in Tel Aviv was watched by 25,000 supporters who gave up their New Year's Eve meal to witness the occasion. Maccabi and Bayern had asked to reschedule the match to take into account religious sensitivities but European football's governing body, Uefa, refused to move it to a different date.

Felix Magath, the Bayern Munich coach, was relieved after after watching his players fight hard. He described the victory in the opening fixture of the Champions' League group stage as a stepping stone for the season.

"I'm pleased with the result and hope we can build on this," Magath said. "I wasn't happy with the first-half performance as we were very pressured, but the inclusion of Sebastian Schweinsteiger in the second half made a big difference and it got us the penalty."

Nir Klinger, the Maccabi coach, said he was very happy with the overall performance of his players, although he was disappointed with the way his team had lost the match.

"Bayern were under great pressure when the score was goalless, but after we conceded the penalty we lost our intensity," Klinger said. "Our young side played well. I'm proud of them, but we should have made it harder for Bayern and we let them off the hook.

"It was a bad mistake by John (Pantsil) to give away the penalty. It was not typical of his play," Klinger added.

The Maccabi coach said that people should not have expected miracles from his team even though Bayern were not on top form. "People thought we'd be playing weak opponents, but it was Bayern. We gave them too much respect early on," Klinger admitted.

Roberto Colauti scored a 32nd-minute goal while goalkeeper Nir Davidovic made several second-half saves as Maccabi Haifa beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1-0 yesterday in the first leg of their first-round, first-leg Uefa Cup match. With the game was played on the Jewish New year holiday, only 5,300 attended the match at Tel Aviv's Bloomfield Stadium. Colauti, signed in the summer from Boca Juniors, beat the defender Sergei Matiukhin to break in on Vyacheslav Kernozenko, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home from a tight angle.