hapoel tel aviv 311.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Champions League dream hangs in the balance after it suffered
a 1-0 defeat to FK Aktobe in Kazakhstan on Wednesday night in the first leg of
the third qualifying round.
After thrashing FK Zeljeznicar 6-0 on
aggregate in the second qualifying round, Tel Aviv was hoping for an equally
easy passage against Aktobe. However, that wasn’t the case on Wednesday and the
Reds will have to be at their best next week to overturn the first leg
Hapoel will still be the favorite to advance to the playoff
round when it hosts the return leg at Bloomfield Stadium next Tuesday, but coach
Eli Gutman was understandably upset with Wednesday’s result.
disappointed with the score, especially after our excellent second half in which
we created plenty of opportunities,” said Gutman, who is hoping to guide Hapoel
to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in club
“This match is just the first half of the tie and we will try
and get the job done in front of our fans at Bloomfield.
At home we can
play without pressure and hopefully advance.”
Gili Vermut and Itai
Shechter echoed their coach’s sentiment.
“I believe that at Bloomfield we
will dictate the pace. We knew we were facing a good team, but nothing is over
yet and we will not drop our heads,” Vermut said.
“I had three chances,
but I failed to score,” Shechter added. “At Bloomfield it will be an entirely
different story. The crowd will give us a push and we will play our regular
Aktobe showed its intent right from the start, with Hapoel
goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama being called into action as early as the second
minute, saving Titi Essomba’s effort.
The hosts continued to threaten Tel
Aviv’s goal throughout the first half, but Hapoel’s Nigerian ’keeper kept Aktobe
Enyeama denied Ivan Peric in the 27th minute and was well placed
to save Evgeni Averchenko’s attempt four minutes later.
remained in control at the start of the second half and Gutman decided to make a
change, replacing Maharan Lala with Ben Sahar in the 57th minute, allowing the
20- year-old to make his debut with the club.
Six minutes later, Sahar
made his first contribution, setting up Itai Shechter, but the striker could do
no better than send his shot straight at Aktobe ’keeper Andrei
An excellent save by Sidelnikov denied Shechter two minutes
later, and Aktobe would make the breakthrough after another two
Douglas da Silva handled the ball in the box and Samat Smakov
converted the penalty to give the hosts the lead against the run of
Gutman immediately substituted Romain Rocchi with Yossi Shivhon,
but Tel Aviv would not come close to equalizing until the final 10
Eran Zehavi and Sahar had their opportunities, but Aktobe held
on and will have a real chance of advancing when it visits Bloomfield next week.