Hapoel Tel Aviv 224.88.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv took a massive step towards the final qualifying round of the Europa League on Thursday night, defeating IFK GÃ¶teborg 3-1 in Sweden in the first leg of the third qualifying round.
However, while Tel Aviv is all but through to the next round, Maccabi Netanya is effectively out of the competition following its 4-1 home loss to Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray at Bloomfield Stadium.
The return legs will be played next Thursday, but in all likelihood the first legs will prove to have decided the ties.
Hapoel trailed 1-0 at the break in Sweden, but new signing Itai Shechter came on at the start of the second half and turned the match on its head in his debut, scoring the equalizer in the 73rd minute and playing a crucial role in the team's late surge.
Samuel Yeboah gave Tel Aviv the lead five minutes later with a clinical finish, and in stoppage time Bibres Natcho ensured Tel Aviv will have a significant lead going into next week's second leg.
Netanya actually took the lead 25 minutes into its match against Galatasaray, but the visitors tied the score six minutes later and dominated the second half on their way to a convincing victory.
"We lost to a very good team, but I take a lot of good things from this match," Netanya coach Nati Azariya said. "We knew we were facing a superior team, but I'm pleased with my side's play and I think my team has a good future in front of it."
Dutch legend and new Galatasaray coach Frank Rijkaard was understandably pleased with his team's easy victory.
"Netanya has some good players and they gave us a hard time in the first half," Rijkaard said. "However, we have a very good advantage ahead of the return leg and the score is in our favor."
Netanya and Galatasaray went in search of the opener right from the kickoff and both created several scoring opportunities before Dela Yampolsky gave the hosts the perfect start in the 25th minute.
Yampolsky lost his marker in the Galatasaray box and headed in Shalev Menashe's corner to the delight of the local support.
However, just six minutes later the Netanya fans were silenced.
Hakan Balta was left all alone in the Maccabi box and easily found the back of the net with a header.
Sadly, Netanya failed to keep up with the visitors in the second half, and within eight minutes the hosts were all but defeated.
Two minutes after the break, Harry Kewell slotted the ball under Netanya 'keeper Daniel Lifshitz to give the Turks the lead, and just six minutes later Sabri Sarioglu gave Galatasaray a significant cushion with a great right-footed finish, smashing the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
The visitors completed the rout in the 73rd, when Milan Baros scored with his head and ensured next week's second leg in Istanbul will be no more than a formality.