UEFA Cup Soccer: Hap TA draw Saint Etienne in first round

Tel Aviv became the only Israeli side left in European competition on Thursday after defeating Serbia's FK Vojvodina.

By JEREMY LAST
August 31, 2008 07:24
2 minute read.
UEFA Cup Soccer: Hap TA draw Saint Etienne in first round

Hapoel Tel Aviv 224.88. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Hapoel Tel Aviv will play French side Saint Etienne in the first round of the UEFA Cup for a place in the all-important group stage. Tel Aviv became the only Israeli side left in European competition on Thursday after defeating Serbia's FK Vojvodina at Bloomfield Stadium in the second qualifying round while Maccabi Netanya and Ironi Kiryat Shmona crashed out of the UEFA Cup. The first leg of the tie will be played on September 18 at Bloomfield with the away leg scheduled for two weeks later in France. The draw for the first round, which features 80 teams, was made on Friday in Monaco. Hapoel coach Eli Gutman, who compared his fans to those of England's Liverpool FC after receiving superb support against Vojvodina, was wary of the team's European opponent. "This is one of the most difficult opponents we could have been drawn against and we will have to be at our best," he said. Midfielder Shai Abutbul scored one goal and set up another on Thursday and was staying focused after hearing the results of the draw on Friday. "There is no doubt this is one of the toughest opponents we could have received but we showed already yesterday that at home with our crowd were not here for show," Abutbul said. "Despite the difficult draw, I believe everything is for the good and I am relying on the professional staff to point us in the right direction for this game. Now we must focus on the league." While Hapoel Tel Aviv is a European veteran and has played in the group stage of the UEFA Cup for the last two years, this will be Saint Etienne's first UEFA Cup appearance in 27 years. The French team finished in fifth place in Ligue 1 last season. Friday's draw of 40 ties threw up many mouthwatering clashes. Bulgarian side Litex Lovech, which knocked out Kiryat Shmona on Thursday, was rewarded with a tie with England's Aston Villa. Italian club Napoli, which lifted the UEFA Cup in 1989 but has been absent from European action for 14 years, has been given a difficult tie against Portugal's Benfica. The draw left another Italian team, Udinese, with an uphill struggle when it plays former European champion Borussia Dortmund of Germany. Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur takes on Wisla Kraków, Betar Jerusalem's victor in the Champions League qualifiers, Holland's Feyenoord faces Kalmar FF, Galatasaray plays Swiss debutants AC Bellinzona and Spain's Valencia meets CS Marítimo of Portugal. AC Milan will play in the UEFA Cup for the first time in many years after failing to qualify for the Champions League due to a relatively poor 5th place finish in Serie A last season. The 2007 Champions League winners will face Switzerland's FC Zürich for a place in the group stage.


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