Time for Hapoel to come back to earth

After epic win, Reds return to domestic duties vs Ashdod; Greens in Ashkelon.

By
November 25, 2010 23:39
2 minute read.
AVIHAI YADIN (in white) and Hapoel Tel Aviv may be

Yadin 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman did his best to bring his players back down to earth on Thursday, one day after their historic 3-0 Champions League victory over SL Benfica at Bloomfield Stadium.

Despite being on the back-foot throughout the entire match, Hapoel successfully soaked up Benfica’s pressure and made the most of its opportunities when they arrived, with a brace from Eran Zehavi and another goal by Douglas da Silva giving the club its first ever victory in European soccer’s most prestigious competition.

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The win over the Portuguese champion, which was the first for an Israeli club in the Champions League in nearly six years, is worth some 880,000 euro in prize money from UEFA and leaves Tel Aviv with an outside chance of finishing third in Group B and advancing to the Europa League round of 32, which it reached last year as well.

However, after once more telling his players how proud he was of them in Thursday morning’s training session, Gutman demanded that they now display maturity and responsibility, and turn their focus once again to the team’s Premier League title defense, with Hapoel hosting Ashdod SC on Sunday.

Tel Aviv has won six of its last seven league matches, defeating Bnei Sakhnin 3-1 last week to move within one point of top-of-the-table Ironi Kiryat Shmona.

On Saturday, Kiryat Shmona can ensure itself at least one more week in first position when it hosts Maccabi Petah Tikva.

Maccabi Haifa visits Hapoel Ashkelon on Saturday, looking for just its second victory in four matches.

Haifa has struggled with its form this season, but has still lost just once in 11 matches and finds itself only two points back of Kiryat Shmona.

After claiming just its second victory of the season last week, Betar Jerusalem visits Hapoel Haifa on Saturday hoping to string together a pair of wins for the first time this season.

Betar came back from two goals down to beat rock-bottom Hapoel Ramat Gan 3-2, but will face a tough match against Hapoel Haifa, which is unbeaten in its last five encounters.

Also Saturday, Hapoel Acre hosts Hapoel Beersheba and Bnei Sakhnin travels south to play Hapoel Petah Tikva.

Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to return to winning ways after two straight defeats when it visits Maccabi Netanya on Monday.


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