From wonderful in Vienna to woeful at Doha - Hapoel Tel Aviv's display on Sunday night against Bnei Sakhnin was a far cry from Thursday's magnificent performance against Rapid Vienna, but Eli Gutman's men still managed to come away with a 2-1 win, thanks to Itai Shechter's last-minute strike.
Hapoel fell behind after only three minutes due to a schoolboy error from Walid Badir. The captain's head appeared to still be in Austria when he inexcusably tried to pass the ball across his box to fellow center-back Douglas Da Silva. Khaled Khalaila couldn't believe his luck as he stole in and rolled the ball under a helpless Vincent Enyeama.
Hapoel leveled on 11 minutes, when Bibras Natkho whipped in a free-kick and Da Silva rose unmarked to power a header over Sakhnin 'keeper Meir Cohen.
The visitors were inches away from falling behind again just four minutes later when a neat Sakhnin move ended with lively Togolese striker Arafat Djako hitting the underside of the bar.
Hapoel substitute Michael Zandberg also hit the woodwork with a shot on the turn with 19 minutes left, but in the final seconds, just when it seemed like Hapoel would have to endure a miserable trip home while the Maccabi Haifa players watching at home would be rubbing their hands with glee, Shechter collected Victor Merey's pass, and with his back to goal, spun and smashed it into the roof of the net to send the away fans into delirium.
Gutman wasn't making any excuses for the poor performance.
"We didn't play well, and I must commend Sakhnin. They were well organized and made things very difficult for us all over the pitch," he said.
The Hapoel coach put the contrasting displays of the last few days down to mentality rather then fatigue, saying that although two games in four days wasn't easy, "it's all in the head."
On TV:Ashdod SC vs Maccabi Haifa (live on Channel 1 at 8 p.m.)