Euro Soccer: Hap TA edges Hamburg

Euro Soccer Hap TA edge

Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Yeboah 248.88 (photo credit: )
Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Yeboah 248.88
(photo credit: )
A "delighted" Eli Gutman was in dreamland on Thursday night after watching his Hapoel Tel Aviv side clinch top spot in Europa League Group C with a wonderful 1-0 win against German giants Hamburg at Bloomfield Stadium. Although Gutman's men can still face the likes of Liverpool in the next round, they will avoid Italian sides Roma and Juventus and will have the advantage of playing the deciding second-leg of the tie at home in front of the roaring Bloomfield crowd. And despite Gutman saying he'd "rather not" face the Anfield outfit, if under-fire Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez had watched what was yet another impressive home win by Hapoel against a tough European side, he might just want to avoid a trip to Tel Aviv. Hamburg did give Hapoel an early scare at Bloomfield though, when Marcell Jansen robbed Omri Canada and knocked the ball past the onrushing Vincent Enyeama, but Canada came back to make amends and clear the danger. At the other end, the on-form Itai Shechter found Samuel Yeboah, whose curling shot was tipped around the post by Wolfgang Hesl. Hapoel was beginning to spray the ball about confidently, and deservedly broke the deadlock midway through the first-half. Gili Vermut clipped the ball over the top to Yeboah, and the Ghanaian capitalized on Jansen's indecision and poked the ball under Hesl. Hamburg came right back at the hosts and Enyeama needed a strong hand to keep out a near-post drive from Swede Marcus Berg. Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia threw on Turk Tunay Toron and Dutchman Eljero Elia for the second-half, and the change almost paid dividends immediately, but Walid Badir was on hand to clear the ball off the line after Elia's shot had beaten Enyeama. Eran Zehavi then powered forward with purpose after collecting Bibras Natkho's pass, and although his low drive was on target, it was too close to Hesl. At the other end, Mladen Petric let fly from the edge of the box, but Enyeama was equal to the Croatian forward's effort. It was end-to-end stuff, and Shechter soon had a glorious chance to double Hapoel's lead, but the striker headed wide with the goal at his mercy from Dedi Ben-Dayan's left-wing cross. Rather than just hanging on for victory in the closing stages, Hapoel frustrated the visitors by simply keeping the ball, and the hosts almost scored again a minute from time when Maharan Lala met another Ben-Dayan cross, but the substitute's header flew inches over the bar.