Hapoel Tel Aviv got its Europa League campaign off to a dream start on Thursday night, coming back from a one-goal deficit to defeat Celtic 2-1 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Despite its positive start to the match, Hapoel found itself 1-0 down in the 25th minute after a defensive lapse allowed Georgios Samaras to give the Scottish powerhouse the lead.
Hapoel would go on to control the match, but struggled to translate its superior possession into scoring opportunities, and until the final 20 minutes it seemed as if was destined to be defeated.
However, a poor clearance by Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc in the 75th minute gave Serbian Nemanja Vucicevic exactly the opportunity he needed to equalize, and two minutes from time substitute Maharan Lala made the most of Gili Vermut sensational build-up play and gave Hapoel a famous victory, which significantly boosts its chances of advancing from Group C.
"We decided to take a risk at halftime and we started to pressure the Celtic defense," Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said after the match. "We played very well in the second half and I think we deserved to win this game."
Celtic manager Tony Mowbray had no complaints after the match. "Hapoel played well and ultimately on the night deserved their victory," he said. "We were pretty comfortable after we took the lead, but we have no excuses. We can take nothing away from Hapoel's performance."
In the second match in Group C, Rapid Vienna surprised Hamburg 3-0.
At Bloomfield, Hapoel burst out of the gates and after just 50 seconds very nearly grabbed the lead.
Dedi Ben-Dayan crossed from the left and Bibras Natcho found space, but failed to place his header on target from three meters out.
Tel Aviv continued to press forward in the subsequent minutes, but its attacking start to the match created plenty of space for Celtic to attack and the visitors took advantage.
In the 12th minute, the Greek giant, Samaras, beat everyone else to a corner kick, only to have his header denied by a fantastic Vincent Enyeama save.
Gutman's newest signing, Vucicevic, who scored on his debut for the team at Hapoel Beersheba on Sunday, continued to impress, and in the 14th minute did well to shake off his defender, but his left-footed shot was kept out by an instinctive Artur Boruc save.
Some poor defending 11 minutes later gifted Celtic the opener.
Walid Badier lost Samaras and the Greek international coolly slotted the
ball beyond Enyeama with an elegant left-footed finish.
The goal completely took the wind out of Tel Aviv's sails and the team rarely ventured forward in the remainder of the first half.
Zurab Menteshashvili came closest to equalizing before the break, hitting a thunderous long range shot, which could not beat a well-placed Boruc, but gave the hosts some encouragement going into the break.
Just like it did at the start of the match, Hapoel came out of the dressing room flying, but once again found it difficult to create scoring opportunities.
Celtic was content on dictating a slow pace to the match and Hapoel was getting frustrated. Gutman introduced Maharan Lala and Eran Zehavi in two attacking substitutions and it quickly paid off.
In the 74th minute, Omri Canada found Yeboah in the box with an accurate cross, but the Ghanaian failed to place his header on target to the disappointment of the red supporters.
However, just one minute later no one would remember Yeboah's miss.
The striker's cross was cleared poorly by Boruc and Vucicevic was first to the loose ball and blasted in the equalizer.
The goal galvanized Tel Aviv and it pushed forward incessantly in search of the winner.
Eran Zehavi and Yeboah both came close, but it was Lala who scored the priceless goal in the 88th minute.
Vermut terrorized the Celtic defense and cut the ball back perfectly for the incoming Lala to tuck beyond Boruc. Lala's strike stunned Celtic into submission and Hapoel had no trouble holding on for the big win.