bnei yehuda 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Two Israeli clubs made rocky and disappointing starts to their European campaigns on Thursday night.
After Maccabi Haifa's heroic performance against Liverpool Wednesday evening, both Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda lost their respective home legs in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup and are at a disadvantage going into the second legs, scheduled for August 24.
Yitzhak Schum's Hapoel Tel Aviv was denied victory due to a brilliant Zlatan Ljubijankic brace, including a magical strike in injury time, while Bnei Yehuda was beaten soundly by Dinamo Bucharest in its European debut.
Both matches were not played in Israel following a UEFA decision that forced the clubs to host the legs at neutral sites.
Hapoel Tel Aviv 1, Domzale 2
Both teams opened the game with a slow and cautious approach, settling for the occasional counterattack, but it was Tel Aviv that made the first crucial blunder of the game.
Domzale was awarded a penalty in the 26th minute after Walid Badir committed a foul in the box. Sebastian Cimirotic, the former Tel Aviv forward, stepped up and blasted the ball towards the right corner. However, the ball came off the crossbar and went out of play.
The Israeli team started pushing forward towards the end of the first half, with Salim Toema showing glimpses of sheer genius. But Elyaniv Barda and Barukh Dego were inaccurate up front, wasting easy chances in front of the goal.
Argentinian Luciano De Bruno, Hapoel's latest signing in the offseason, showed his worth before the halftime whistle. The Domzale defense failed to clear the ball and the unmarked De Bruno tapped the ball in from close range in the 41st minute.
However, the tide turned within a minute in the second half.
Tel Aviv right back Tomer Haliva was shown his second yellow card of the game in the 62nd minute, leaving his team with 10 men. To make things worse, Badir handed the visitors their second penalty of the game just seconds after Haliva's ejection.
Ljubijankic took responsibility for performing the spot kick, sending Hapoel goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech the wrong way and bringing his team back on level terms in the 63rd minute.
The Reds held on in the final stages of the game and, like Maccabi Haifa felt the previous night in Liverpool, the match was headed to a draw.
However, Ljubijankic had yet to say the last word.
The energetic midfielder took the ball in his stride, dribbled past the Hapoel rearguard and fired in a crisp drive from 30 meters. The stunning shot left Elimelech helpless, struck the far post and landed in the back of the net, giving Domzale the win.
"We should have prevailed and I don't agree with both of the penalties Domzale was awarded," said an overwhelmed Yossi Abuksis after the game. "It's not over till it's over. We are a better team, though we have our work cut out for us now."
Bnei Yehuda 0, Lokomotiv Sofia 2
The Oranges opened the game in an attacking formation, with forwards Barak Badash and new signing Lior Asulin in the starting 11.
The inexperienced Israeli side fell behind in the 30th minute, however, when Martcho Daftchev blasted in a free kick from the edge of the box.
Bnei Yehuda coach Nitzan Shirazi inserted right winger Eli Biton in the second half hoping to find the equalizer, but the Bulgarians had other plans.
Sofia earned a penalty kick in the 58th minute, and Tsvetan Genkov doubled his side's lead.
Asulin had a great chance to cut into the deficit, which would have made the second leg a bit easier, but his effort was cleared from the line.