hapoel tel aviv 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv was unable to overcome freezing temperatures in Russia on Thursday afternoon, losing 3-0 to Rubin Kazan in the first leg of its round of 32 Europa League tie.
In an effort to avoid dangerously cold conditions, UEFA had agreed to move the match forward by four hours. However, even in the bright afternoon daylight of the Central Stadium, the icy weather was still the crucial factor in the match.
Hapoel simply froze. The Israeli team’s players barely ran for much of the match, hardly able to put a few passes together, let alone a significant attack.
Meanwhile, even though Kazan hadn’t played a competitive match since the start of December, the Russian champion was full of vigor in temperatures which reached -15° C, and could have got four or five goals.
Aleksandr Bukharov scored twice in nine first-half minutes and Sergei Semak killed the match off 20 minutes from time.
Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman was furious about the conditions, telling reporters after the game: “It is impossible to play in this weather.”
However, Gutman stressed that the weather was in now way the only reason for the defeat. “We made far too many defensive errors and we paid for this,” he said.
And the coach insisted that the tie was not over, saying, “We will do our maximum in next week’s deciding game at Bloomfield.”
Hapoel midfielder Bibras Natcho is expected to sign with Kazan next month, but may be regretting the decision. Like his teammates, Natcho looked totally out of place on the muddy pitch.
All the players wore long black tights under their shorts and most wore wooly hats in an attempt to stave off the cold.
It didn’t work in a first half that was all Kazan. Tel Aviv was lucky to hold off the Russians for nearly 15 minutes, with Rubin creating a number of chances early on.
Bukharov gave the hosts the lead in the 14th minute, flicking the ball over defender Walid Badir before heading it past Hapoel goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama and slotting it into an empty net.
The striker’s second goal came from a stunning volley after a poor clearance attempt from the Tel Aviv defense.
The visitors came out with a little more intent at the start of the second half and even reached a few scoring opportunities.
Natcho volleyed over the bar a few minutes into the period and Itai Shechter attempted to terrorize the home defenders with his trademark stepovers.
But in the end the pressure came to nothing and Semak capitalized on a rare Enyema mistake in the 69th minute to make it 3-0.