Allon sinai 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After watching Hapoel Tel Aviv’s 2-0 setback in its Champions League group stage
debut at Benfica two weeks ago, I was reminded of one of the unforgettable lines
uttered by baseball legend Yogi Berra.
As much as I tried to will myself
to believe “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” the particular quote that came to
mind was rather “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
For Hapoel’s defeat
in Portugal seemed to be a direct continuation of Maccabi Haifa’s
League campaign last season, which ended embarrassingly with the Greens
the first team in the 18-year history of the prestigious competition to
the group stage with no points or goals.
Tel Aviv had its moments in
Lisbon, and had refereeing decisions gone its way, it perhaps might have
been able to return home with an historic Champions League
However, the exact same things were written about Haifa after
almost all of its group games last season before it set a record for
“Haifa impressed for large periods of its continental campaign
and was unlucky not to have anything to show for its efforts,”was the
overwhelming sentiment in both the local media and elsewhere.
Levy’s men did show that they could compete at the highest level in
matches against Bayern Munich, Juventus and Bordeaux, but by losing each
every one of their encounters, while also failing to score a single
also proved that they were simply not good enough to get the better of
Hapoel has only played one group match so far, but the similarities
to Haifa’s performances from last season were both disappointing and
With that said, Tel Aviv can turn the frowns upside down on
Wednesday night when it hosts Olympique Lyon in its first home match in
competition at Bloomfield Stadium.
Hapoel enters the encounter in the
midst of its worst crisis since the team was mired in last place in the
League standings three years ago.
Recent off-field distractions include
co-owners Moni Harel and Eli Tabib squabbling in the media about the
running, Gutman finally signing his new contract some five months after
originally agreeing to a one-year extension and midfielders Eran Zehavi
Avihai Yadin boycotting a training session in protest of interminable
This all would have been of little interest had Hapoel
still been rolling to victories in the free-flowing fashion of last
However, in addition to its European mini-slump, the side has
picked up just four points from its first four league matches, losing
home to Ironi Kiryat Shmona this past Saturday.
Nevertheless, even with
all that is going at the club, the Reds could not ask for a better time
Lyon. The seven-time French champion is off to its worst Ligue 1 start
years, having picked up just five points from its first seven fixtures
currently occupying second-to-last position in the table.
Lyon is still
the clear favorite on Wednesday night, but Hapoel will not get a finer
opportunity to claim the scalp of a top European team and everyone in
Hapoel has lost just once in its last 12 home matches in
continental competition over the past three seasons, beating the likes
Hamburg and Celtic last year.
It is costing the club over a million
shekels to upgrade Bloomfield to UEFA Champions League standards for
match, with the management hoping the homefield advantage will translate
success, and the hefty cash injections that come along with it.
victory in the group stage is worth a handsome 800,000 euros, with even a
point giving the club a nottoo- shabby 400,000 euros.
Everything is in
place for Hapoel to rediscover last season’s form and put its poor start
current campaign behind it with a famous victory.
After the draw for the
group stage was made, Hapoel management and players spoke of becoming
Israeli team to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League, with
Harel even saying he believed the team could make the quarterfinals.
the time being Israeli soccer fans expect far less.
A goal and a point
against Lyon on Wednesday may eventually prove not to be enough for
avoid last position in Group B, but it would help us forget Haifa’s
campaign, and that is all we ask firstname.lastname@example.org