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Di Maria-inspired Juve beat Maccabi to kick-start Euro campaign

Juventus players celebrate after scoring against Maccabi Haifa. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

Juventus got off the mark in the Champions League with Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Maccabi Haifa powered by an inspired performance from Angel Di Maria.

Argentina winger Di Maria set up Adrien Rabiot’s brace and a further strike from Dusan Vlahovic to give Juve their first points in Group H.

They sit four points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica in the group and next week have a trip to Israel where they will again be favourites.

However they flagged in the last 20 minutes and allowed substitute Din David to half the deficit with 15 minutes remaining, shortly before Rabiot secured the win.

“This could be a good place from where to relaunch my Juve career,” Rabiot, who was close to joining Manchester United in the summer, told reporters.

“It was good for the team because we really needed this result… It was a proper Champions League match.”

No Israeli team has ever won away in the Champions League and although they also twice struck the post, Maccabi fell to their ninth straight defeat in the competition.

Israel international David was one of a clutch of players observing fasting for Yom Kippur and therefore couldn’t start the match, but coach Barak Bakhar said it was “pointless looking for excuses”.

“At home with our fans we can do more, we have two games at home and we want to have more positive results,” added Bakhar.

Di Maria show

Maccabi were backed by a loud and large contingent of away fans at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, which hosted a meagre crowd of under 29,000 as Juve supporters disillusioned with recent results continued to stay away from what was once a couldron of a ground.

Di Maria is serving a two-match suspension in Serie A and showed what Juve are missing domestically with a performance which could have comfortably finished with four assists.

The hosts should have been ahead by the 12th minute as Vlahovic spurned two great chances to score his sixth goal of the season in the space of seconds.

First the Serbia forward had a low shot well saved by Josh Cohen, and then after exchanging passes with Filip Kostic he scuffed a simpler finish wide.

Fans hoping for all-out attack were to be disappointed though, as Juve settled into the similar pattern of tedium that has afflicted most of their performances this season. 

However Di Maria showed the kind of creativity Juve have been missing in the 35th minute with an exquisite pass for Rabiot, who combined his smart dart into the box with a emphatic near-post finish.

And four minutes after the break he split the Maccabi defence for Vlahovic to charge through and roll under Cohen and double Juve’s lead.

Juve would have been four goals ahead if scorers Vlahovic and Rabiot had been as clinical with two more superb Di Maria through balls, but their wastefulness in the face of his generosity allowed Maccabi back in the game.

David came on in the 73rd minute and almost immediately skipped around Wojciech Szczesny and rolled home.

However with the away fans bouncing and throwing objects at Di Maria at a corner with seven minutes left, the mercurial winger swung in a perfect cross which Rabiot glanced in to seal a deserved win.

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