hapoel TA soccer 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Reuven Oved ensured that Israeli soccer fans will enjoy European action well into the winter, scoring the winner in Hapoel Tel Aviv's 1-0 victory over AIK Solna on Thursday night to book the team's place in the group stage of the UEFA Cup for a second straight season.
Hapoel, which is Israel's only remaining representative in European competition, was on the back foot for most of Thursday's first round second leg match in Sweden, but Oved's superb free-kick against the run of play in the 63rd minute gave Tel Aviv the massive win.
Hapoel, which reached the first round by defeating Bosnian club Siroki Brijeg 6-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round, will be looking now to repeat its performance from last year, in which it progressed as far as the round of 32 of the competition.
Eight groups of five teams comprise the group stage, with each side playing four games, two at home and two away. The winners, runners-up and third-placed teams from each section advance to the last 32.
AIK, which managed a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, put Hapoel under pressure right from the kickoff with Daniel TjernstrÃ¶m registering the hosts' first shot on goal as early as the second minute.
In the 13th minute Solna should have taken the lead, but Lucas ValdemarÃn failed to beat Tel Aviv keeper Vincent Enyeama, who had to be at full stretch to keep the ball out. Less then a minute later Enyeama had to be at his very best once more, tipping Pablo Monsalvo's dangerous shot over the crossbar.
Hapoel attempted to push forward midway through the half, but failed to create any real chances. Fabio Junior tried to beat keeper Daniel Ã–rlund with a chip in the 28th minute, but the Brazilian squandered his side's best chance of the first 45 minutes.
ValdemarÃn, who was the best player on the field in the first half, continued to terrorize the Tel Aviv defense and should have done better with his header in the 29th minute, sending the ball just high.
Ten minutes later the Argentinian found space at the center of the visitors' box, but blasted the ball left of Enyeama's goal. Four minutes before the interval ValdemarÃn came just centimeters from giving his team a deserved halftime lead, heading the ball wide of the left post.
AIK continued to dominate possession in the second half, but Tel Aviv was the closest to scoring in the early stages of the period. Seven minutes after the break Walid Badier hit a dangerous curling shot from 20 meters out that was only just kept out by Ã–rlund.
In the 63rd minute, however, Ã–rlund's late reaction cost his team dearly. Oved struck an excellent free-kick from 25 meters out and despite getting a hand to the ball the Swedish keeper couldn't deny Hapoel the lead.
The crucial goal broke the Swedes' spirit and Tel Aviv maintained its slender advantage to reach the group stage once more.