Reds return home after respectable CL showing

Hapoel entered the match at the Stade de Gerland needing an unlikely win against last season’s Champions League semifinalist.

December 9, 2010 05:40
2 minute read.
HAPOEL TEL AVIV midfielder Eran Zahavi

HAPOEL TEL AVIV midfielder Eran Zahavi 311. (photo credit: AP)

Hapoel Tel Aviv returned to Israel on Wednesday afternoon disappointed, yet proud, of its 2-2 Champions League draw at Olympique Lyon the previous night.

Hapoel entered the match at the Stade de Gerland needing an unlikely win against last season’s Champions League semifinalist, as well as for SL Benfica to fail to defeat Schakle 04 at home, to avoid last place in Group B and advance to the round of 32 of the Europa League.

Hapoel Tel Aviv closes with 2-2 draw at Lyon

Lyon dominated the possession and reached numerous chances in front of the Hapoel goal, but goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was in inspired form and kept the score goalless until halftime.

Lisandro gave the hosts the lead in the 62nd minute, only for Ben Sahar to equalize a minute later, before Tel Aviv went in front in the 69th minute with a goal which will live in Israeli soccer fans’ memories for many years to come.

Salim Toama crossed the ball from the left and Eran Zahavi sent a stunning bicycle kick into the back of the net in what may well be crowned as goal of the season in the Champions League.

With Schalke winning 2-1 at Benfica, everything was in place for Tel Aviv to clinch third place in the standings.

However, Alexandre Lacazette would equalize for Lyon two minutes from time, breaking Tel Aviv hearts after an heroic performance.

“I’m proud of this team,” Gutman said on Wednesday upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport. “We played in one of the toughest stadiums in Europe and the fact that we left it disappointed pretty much says it all. I’m 90 percent proud and 10 percent disappointed.”

The impressive draw meant that Hapoel became the first Israeli side to avoid defeat away from home in the competition since Maccabi Haifa drew 3-3 at Olympiacos on November 13, 2002, snapping an eightmatch losing streak.

“We had a good campaign,” Gutman said. “We gave our opponents a little too much respect at the start, but we ended it with an inspiring performance in one of the toughest road matches possible and we were unbeaten in the second round of matches. We now must make the switch and turn our focus back to the Premier League.”

There was also some bad news from Tuesday’s match, with striker Itai Shechter injuring his shoulder before having to be substituted by Sahar in the 25th minute.

Shechter, who will undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury, is usually the star of the show wherever his team goes, but on Wednesday it was Zahavi who garnered all the attention.

“I can’t really explain the bicycle kick,” Zahavi said.

“The cross was high and I just decided to give it a go.

“We are happy with the draw, but are slightly disappointed because we were so close to the Europa League.

Now we must maintain this form and play consistently well.

“There is still a long way to go in the league and we want to win it again so we can play in the Champions League once more next season.”

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