Hapoel TA 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv's European season is still alive - but only just, after the Israeli side was held 0-0 by Swedish team AIK Solna at Bloomfield Stadium on Thursday night in the first leg of its UEFA Cup first round tie.
The Reds will travel to Solna in two weeks time in an optimistic mood, knowing their opponents did not manage to score a crucial away goal, but also with the realization that it will be tough to get a result away from home in a hostile atmosphere.
The winner of the tie will play in the group stage of the UEFA Cup, a level Hapoel coach Guy Luzon reached while coaching Maccabi Petah Tikva in 2005/06.
Liberian Dulee Johnson stood out for the visitors in an exciting game which had everything but goals. Johnson controlled the midfield and spread the ball intelligently, with Argentinian Ivan Obolo often the recipient of his passes.
Hapoel's veteran Baruch Dego had a positive game in the center of the park, but was all too often let down by Lior Asulin in the forward line. The introduction of Reuven Oved in the 71st minute buoyed the passionate crowd and introduced an element of creativity for the home side.
The game started at a quick pace, with both teams attacking from the kick off.
Solna captain Daniel Tjernstrom made an impact in the first five minutes when he pressed forward and struck an impressive shot which went wide of Vincent Enyeama's goal.
In the 11th minute Hapoel's Brazilian Fabio Junior fed the ball to Asulin on the right hand side of the penalty box, but the former Betar Jerusalem striker's cross cum-shot sailed over Solna 'keeper Daniel Orlund's goal.
A minute later Junior and Dego linked up cleverly and Dego fired in a strong effort from outside the area which again failed to test Orlund.
Hapoel seemed the more composed side, constantly testing its opponents with telling through balls down the right hand side.
The Israelis also looked strong at the back, mopping up any Solna attacks with relative ease. Midfielders Walid Badier and Mazua Ensombo proved an essential element in aiding their defense.
Junior came closest to putting Hapoel ahead in the 32nd minute when he hit the crossbar with a powerful effort from just outside the six yard box after another good interchange with Dego.
Despite the fast pace and numerous efforts on goal the first half ended goal less.
The second period opened at a similarly fast pace, but Solna took the initiative, pouring forward with intricate passes and flowing movements. Obolo should have scored for the visitors eight minutes into the half when he slid in to connect on a cross from English mifielder Kenney Pavey, but the effort slid wide of the goal.
Hapoel then came back into the game and Junior could have done better with a headed opportunity which was too weak to worry Orlund on 60 minutes.
The Hapoel attackers became sloppy as the clock wound down.
Asulin stung the hands of the Solna 'keeper with a speculative effort with nine minutes to play, but still the home team could not get the crucial goal it was looking for.
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