Disheartening defeat to Prague for host Hapoel Beersheba
A victory against a shorthanded Sparta would have put Beersheba in an ideal position to finish among the top two in the group, who will advance to the round-of-32.
By ALLON SINAI
Hapoel Beersheba’s chances of reaching the knockout rounds of the Europa League suffered a significant blow on Thursday night following a 1-0 defeat to Sparta Prague at Turner Stadium.Beersheba happily settled for a 0-0 draw against Southampton of the English Premier League in its previous Europa match after stunning Inter Milan 2-0 win in their Group K opener in Italy.A victory against a shorthanded Sparta would have put Beersheba in an ideal position to finish among the top two in the group, who will advance to the round-of-32.Beersheba dominated the encounter, controlling the possession (67% to 33%) and completing 88 percent of its passes (461 of 521) compared to Sparta’s 69% (140 of 201).The reigning Israeli champion registered 19 scoring attempts, but only three were on target. Prague had only five scoring opportunities, with just one finding the target, but that was all it needed to return home with three precious points thanks to substitute Matej Pulkrab’s winner in the 71st minute.Borek Dockal was given too much time on the right flank and his cross found a completely open Pulkrab in front of goal.Beersheba desperately searched for an equalizer, but couldn’t find the back of the net, seriously complicating its position in the group.The win took Sparta to the top of the standings with six points.Beersheba and Southampton have four points each, with Inter on three points after beating Southampton 1-0 on Thursday.Beersheba visits Prague in two weeks before hosting Inter on November 24. Barak Bachar’s team wraps up its group campaign with a visit to Southampton on December 8.“We had enough chances to win the match, but we couldn’t find the back of the net,” said Bachar. “Sparta deserves plenty of credit, but we were the better team and they hit us on the break.”Bachar was pleased with his team’s overall performance and said it will be going for the win in Prague.“It isn’t that we had a really bad game or something,” explained Bachar. “We played our game and did what we needed to do, but the bottom line is that we didn’t get the result we wanted.This is a painful defeat, but we still have hope. Their goal came against the run of play, but that can happen. It is okay to lose sometimes, but now we need to win in Prague.”Later Thursday, Maccabi Tel Aviv went in search of its first points in Group D when it visited AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.Maccabi fell to a 1-0 defeat to Irish team Dundalk in Dublin in its previous group match after suffering a 4-3 loss to Zenit Saint Petersburg in their opener in Netanya despite leading 3-0 until the 77th minute.
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