Hapoel August 19 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hapoel Tel Aviv is on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League group
stage for the first time in club history after claiming a 3-2 victory at Red
Bull Salzburg’s Red Bull Arena in the first leg of the playoffs on Wednesday
Hapoel hosts the second leg at Bloomfield Stadium next Tuesday
and, with three away goals, knows that even a 1-0 or 2-1 defeat at home will
send it through to European soccer’s most prestigious stage.
Tel Aviv got
off to a perfect start on Wednesday, with Itai Shechter being brought down in
the box just 48 seconds in, and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama converted the penalty
a minute later.
Salzburg equalized in the 28th minute through Nikola
Pokrivac, but Hapoel was never in any danger of losing and it led at the break
after Ben Sahar’s 44th minute strike.
Shechter piled the misery on the
Austrians seven minutes into the second half and even though Roman Wallner got a
goal back for Salzburg, Tel Aviv will never forgive itself if it doesn’t
complete an aggregate victory in Jaffa next week.
Seconds after the
opening whistle, Shechter latched on to a long ball, and the striker was brought
down in the box by Salzburg’s Franz Schiemer.
Enyeama stepped up to take
the spot kick and his perfectly executed penalty gave Tel Aviv the ideal
Despite the early lead, the visitors were still visibly nervous at
the beginning of the match and in the 10th minute the hosts almost
Eran Zehavi turned the ball over on the touchline, but
Douglas da Silva came to his rescue, blocking Christoph Leitgeb’s shot from the
edge of the area.
The Austrians had the better of the possession, but
they created virtually nothing until the 28th minute.
A poor clearance by
Yossi Shivhon found Pokrivac and the Croatian’s unstoppable shot slammed into
the back of the net off the post.
Tel Aviv didn’t drop its head after
conceding the equalizer and it slowly found its rhythm. Gutman’s team was
stringing together passes in typical fashion and it was rewarded for its fluent
play a minute from the break.
After a great break forward, Dedi Ben-Dayan
sent in a great cross and Sahar clinically slotted his header beyond Gerhard
Trailing by a goal at home meant that Salzburg was forced to
commit more players forward at the start of the second half and Hapoel needed
just seven minutes to make the hosts pay.
Avihai Yadin superbly threaded
the ball through to Shechter and the 23-yearold carefully took his time and gave
Tremmel no chance with his shot.
Salzburg knew that a 3-1 deficit would
leave it with no chance in the return leg at Bloomfield, and it sent everyone
forward in search of goals.
In the 67th minute, it got what it was
Omri Kende foolishly fouled Jakob Jantscher in the box and
Wallner coolly converted the penalty to cut the deficit.
Salzburg should have been more desperate to score a goal, it was Tel Aviv that
had the better chances in the match’s late stages.
In the 81st minute,
Shechter turned well in the box, but Tremmel somehow got his foot to his shot
and Salzburg was spared.
Three minutes from time, Gili Vermut found
Zehavi after an excellent surge forward, only for the latter to fire straight at
However, those missed opportunities should be of no
significance with Hapoel now within touching distance of the group stage thanks
to an outstanding road victory.