Hap TA nets a handful in opening rout

Reds dominate Zeljeznicar on Lala’s hat-trick to take 5-0 advantage into second leg.

HAPOEL TEL AVIV 311 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Hapoel Tel Aviv all but booked its place in the third qualifying round of the Champions League on Tuesday night, thrashing Bosnian champion FK Zeljeznicar 5-0 at Bloomfield Stadium.
Tel Aviv completely outclassed its modest opponent and scored all five of its goals by halftime.
Eli Gutman’s men sliced through Zeljeznicar’s defense at will and had the Bosnians completely at their mercy.
The margin of victory could have very well been in doublefigures had Hapoel kept its foot on the gas in the second half.
Nevertheless, the final score line will surely be more than enough for the team to officially advance to the third qualifying round when it visits Sarajevo for the return leg next week, hence Gutman’s delight at the ridiculously easy victory.
“I never dreamed we would open the season like this,” said Gutman, who is hoping to guide Hapoel to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in club history.
Hapoel will know who it will face next even before it completes it advancement, with the draw for the third qualifying round to take place in Nyon, Switzerland this coming Friday.
The third qualifying round is followed by the play-off round from which the winners advance to the group stage.
Two goals by Maharan Lala and Yossi Shivhon within two minutes gave Hapoel a comfortable cushion by the 12th minute of Tuesday’s match, with an own goal and two more strikes by Lala completing the rout by the interval.
The slick passing and fluent attacking of last season was once more at display at Bloomfield, which should really come as little surprise considering 9 of Gutman’s 10 field players were also in the starting lineup when Hapoel clinched the Premier League and State Cup double two months ago.
It took Tel Aviv 10 minutes to break the deadlock.
Zeljeznicar surely didn’t do its homework as Gili Vermut was given plenty of space on the left flank and after easily dribbling past one defender, squared the ball into the box for Shivhon, who back-healed it into the path of Lala to slot in the opener.
Less than two minutes later it was 2-0.
Lala’s shot from the edge of the area was parried by ’keeper Ibrahim Sehic and new signing Shivhon smashed in the rebound to score in what was quickly becoming a dream debut.
After a 10-minute lull, Zeljeznicar’s goal was under siege once more, and Hapoel didn’t need long to build a secure margin ahead of the second leg.
Eran Zehavi and Shivon both squandered chances before a pass by Lala was put into the net by poor Bosnian Mirsad Beslija.
Three minutes passed by and Lala added to his team’s tally all by himself, tucking in the ball from one meter out after some good work by Shivhon.
In the 36th minute, Vermut was tumbled over in the box by Mirko Radovanovic, but the subsequent penalty by Walid Badier was saved by Sehic.
A minute later no one would remember Badier’s missed spot kick after Lala’s weak effort from the edge of the box somehow found its way into the net, giving the striker a first-half hat-trick.
The five-goal lead allowed Gutman to hand two more of his new signings their debut in the second half, with South African defender Bevan Fransman and French midfielder Romain Rocchi both getting their first taste of Bloomfield.
Seemingly every Tel Aviv player on the pitch had his chance, but despite the fact none could add to the side’s tally, Hapoel fans were all smiles at the final whistle, safe in the knowledge their team moved a step closer to the group stage.