Hapoel Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Bernat Armangue/AP)
Less than 12 hours after falling 3-1 to Olympique Lyon at Bloomfield Stadium on
Wednesday night, Hapoel Tel Aviv was back in training, with coach Eli Gutman
doing his best to lift his players ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter
at Maccabi Netanya.
Hapoel played well for large parts of the first ever
Champions League match at Bloomfield, but was always going to struggle after
falling behind to Michel Bastos’s seventh minute penalty.
Lyon was in
complete control after Bastos doubled its lead with an unstoppable rocket from
the edge of the box in the 36th minute, and the Frenchmen cruised for most of
the second half.
Vincent Enyeama made sure that Hapoel won’t follow in
the footsteps of Maccabi Haifa – who last season became the first team in
Champions League history to end the group stage without points or goals – when
he scored from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, becoming only the third
goalkeeper in the competition’s history to find the back of the
However, Miralem Pjanic guaranteed Lyon would leave Israel with all
three points with his stoppage time strike, meaning Hapoel will have to wait at
least until October 20 when it visits Schalke 04 in Germany to claim historic
points in the Champions League.
“I’m proud of you,” Gutman told his
players at the Hodorov training ground on Thursday. “We played a good match. You
should lift your heads. There is no snowball effect. We are a good team and we
will prove that.”
Gutman was pleased with his side’s overall performance
“We not only scored a goal, but we also played well in the
second half and pressured Lyon,” he said. “We made mistakes and we paid for
them. Lyon did its job. They weren’t that much better than us. The second goal
made all the difference. I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m proud of my
players and with the way they fought and performed.”
Hapoel has won just
one match since beating Red Bull Salzburg 3-2 in Austria on August 18 in the
first leg of the Champions League playoffs, with the 5-1 Premier League victory
over Hapoel Ashkelon coming over a month ago.
After picking up just four
points from its first four league matches, and with its last league encounter
ending in a 4-2 home defeat to Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Saturday’s meeting with
Netanya has taken on an added significance.
“The next Champions League
match against Schalke is the last thing on our mind,” Gutman said. “We are now
fully focused on Maccabi Netanya.”
Striker Ben Sahar echoed his coach’s
“We had a lot of chances and it is a shame we couldn’t score,”
Sahar said. “We are pleased with the way we played, but not with the result. We
looked much better than we have done recently and I hope we continue to improve
We’re not thinking of stopping Schalke’s Raul or Huntleaar,
we’re far more concerned with Netanya’s Hen Ezra.”
Maccabi Netanya has
impressed so far this season and is one of just three unbeaten teams in the
league. Reuven Atar’s men have won both of their home matches to date, including
a 4-1 victory over Betar Jerusalem in the first weekend of the
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to extend its Premier
League winning streak to four matches on Saturday when it hosts Hapoel Petah
Tikva at Bloomfield in front of empty stands due to its fans’
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa visits Hapoel Acre, Hapoel
Ashkelon hosts Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Beersheba welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and
Petah Tikva faces Ashdod SC.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Betar Jerusalem at
Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in an intriguing encounter on Sunday night, with
Ramat Gan visiting top-of-the-table Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday.