Hap TA looks to secure CL advancement

Reds enter second leg in Bosnia up five goals with third qualifying round almost a lock.

hapoel tel aviv 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
hapoel tel aviv 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Ahead of last week’s first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round tie against FK Zeljeznicar, Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Eli Gutman spent much of his pre-match press conference warning against complacency.
He spoke of how well-organized the Bosnians are and complimented their attacking play. It is difficult to tell if Gutman had exaggerated his sentiments, as Zeljeznicar completely capitulated at Bloomfield Stadium, conceding five goals in 28 first half minutes to lose 5-0.
Hapoel enters Wednesday’s second leg in Sarajevo knowing only a true sporting disaster can deny it a place in the third qualifying round, but Gutman still refuses to take anything for granted.
“We have a significant advantage after the first leg, but I’m not taking this match lightly,” said Gutman.
“This is a Champions League match and a win is worth ranking points for the club and Israeli soccer. We are treating this match very seriously and we will make sure the players are focused.” Gutman’s players echoed his sentiment.
“We are not going on a holiday,” said defender Omri Kende. “We will prepare for this match and come to win it. It is true we have a good chance of advancing, but anything can happen, even after our 5-0 win.”
Goals by Maharan Lala and Yossi Shivhon within two minutes gave Hapoel a comfortable cushion by the 12th minute of the first leg, with an own goal by Mirsad Beslija (28) and two more strikes by Lala (31, 38) completing the rout by the interval.
Gutman is expected to start with the exact same lineup that played at Bloomfield, with Galil Ben-Shaanan to continue in goal in place of Vincent Enyeama, who will rejoin the team in training over the weekend.
Douglas da Silva and Walid Badier should start in the center of defense, while Kende and Dedi Ben-Dayan will play on the right and left of the backfour, respectively.
Gili Vermut, Eran Zehavi and Avihai Yadin will take their place in the midfield once again, while Shivhon will be hoping to follow up on his dream debut with another impressive performance.
With Hapoel closing in on the signing of Ben Sahar, Lala will be aiming to prove his worth up-front by finding the net yet again, while Itai Shechter will be looking to score his first goal of the season after a frustrating night in the first leg.
“We have forgotten what happened in the first leg,” Shechter said. “This is a new match that can help us gain confidence. Your next opponent always crosses your mind, but we need to focus on Wednesday’s match.
This is a Champions League game against the Bosnian champion and everyone wants to play.”
Hapoel will also discover who it next faces on Wednesday, as FC Olimpi Rustavi of Georgia tries to erase a 2-0 first-leg deficit when it hosts Kazakh champion FK Aktobe.
Like his teammates, Zehavi has also taken Gutman’s team talks to heart, although the midfielder did agree to speak about Hapoel’s likely opponent in the third qualifying round.
“Hapoel wants to win every match,” he said. “This encounter will be a good preparation for the next round and we are treating it seriously. Aktobe is a good team, one which caused Haifa a lot of trouble last season. We are all dreaming of reaching the group stage for the first time in club history, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”