Hapoel Tel Aviv was humbled 3-0 by Atletico Madrid in its Europa League Group B
opener on Thursday night, looking completely out of its depth for much of the
match at Bloomfield Stadium.
The reigning Europa League winner came to
Israel without star striker Falcao and four other starters, but it still easily
dominated Hapoel, scoring twice in four first half minutes through Cristian
Rodriguez (37) and Diego Costa (40) to effectively clinch its 14th straight win
in continental competition.
Raul Garcia poured salt on Hapoel’s wounds
with another goal in the 63rd minute.
After Thursday’s disappointing, yet
unsurprising, setback, Hapoel will look to get its campaign up and running when
it visits Adademica de Coimbra of Portugal in its second group match in two
Adademica lost 3-1 at Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic on
Later Thursday, Ironi Kiryat Shmona opened its account in Europa League Group I with an admirable 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
Adrian Rochet gave Kiryat Shmona the lead in the 14th minute thanks to a fortuitous deflection, but Markel Susaeta equalized for the hosts five minutes from halftime.
However, despite registering 22 attempts at goal compared to just two by the Israeli champion, Bilbao couldn't find a winner, with goalkeeper Danny Amos coming to Kiryat Shmona's rescue time and again.
Both Hapoel and Madrid were tentative in the
opening stages, but it wouldn’t take the visitors long to seize control of
proceedings, pressing Hapoel players across the field and forcing numerous
Brazilian Diego Costa was terrorizing the Tel Aviv defense and
goalkeeper Apoula Edel was all that stood between Madrid and the
Hapoel finally created an opening in the 26th minute, with
Tal Ben-Haim surging into the box before squaring the ball for Toto Tamuz, who
couldn’t place his volley on target.
However, that proved to be Hapoel’s
only chance of the first half and Atletico ultimately converted its dominance
into two goals in four minutes.
Yigal Antebi gave the ball away
carelessly in the 37th minute and Rodriguez released an unstoppable left-footed
effort from the edge of the area.
Three minutes later, Gili Vermut was
guilty of a turnover and Costa rounded Edel to give Atletico a deserved two-goal
advantage at the break.
Ben-Haim was the only Hapoel player who caused
Atletico any sort of trouble in the second half, but the visitors extended their
lead nevertheless, with Raul Garcia scoring in the 63rd minute to cap a
miserable night for the Reds.