Hapoel TA, Bnei Yehuda through to Europa League playoffs
Mac Netanya gets blown away by Galatasaray in Istanbul to end its European campaign.
By ALLON SINAI, JPOST.COM STAFF
Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda coasted into the Europa League playoffs on Thursday night, while Maccabi Netanya exited the competition in embarrassing fashion.
Hapoel entered the second leg of its third qualifying round matchup against IFK GÃ¶teborg at Bloomfield Stadium with a comfortable 3-1 advantage from the first leg in Sweden, and was in complete control throughout Thursday's return leg.
Tel Aviv got off to a quick start and took a deserved lead in the 13th minute on a goal by new signing Michael Zandberg, and despite conceding an equalizer in the 52nd minute, sailed into the final round of qualification for the Europa League's group stage.
"We played very well in the first 30 minutes, but after we scored our intensity dropped," Hapoel coach Eli Gutman said.
"The better team advanced and we can be proud of ourselves, especially with our performance in the first leg."
Meanwhile, Eliran Atar's first-half goal gave Bnei Yehuda an impressive 1-0 victory away at Portuguese side Pacos Ferreira, and a 2-0 aggregate win.
However, Guy Luzon's star striker will be suspended for the first playoff match, since he picked a booking in Portugal.
Elsewhere, Netanya knew it had almost no chance of advancing on Thursday after losing to Galatasaray 4-1 at home in the first leg.
However, Nati Azariya's team surely had hoped not to end its European campaign with a 6-0 drubbing at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium.
The hosts led 2-0 after just six minutes and never looked back.
Shabani Nonda scored a hat-trick, with Baris Ozbek tallying twice and Abdul Kader Keita finding the back of the net once.
Hapoel began the match well against GÃ¶teborg and reached its first scoring opportunity in the 10th minute.
Itay Shechter controlled the ball well in the box, but his effort was blocked by the GÃ¶teborg defense.
Just moments later, the visitors almost scored the crucial opener, but Tobias Hysen's shot was well saved by the dependable Vincent Enyeama.
In the 13th minute, Hapoel broke the scoreless deadlock.
After some great build-up play, Gili Vermut picked out Michael Zandberg in the box and the new signing curled the ball beautifully into the top left corer.
The visitors almost equalized in the subsequent minutes, with Thomas Olsson squandering the best chance by ballooning the ball over the crossbar from five meters out.
Tel Aviv easily held on to its lead for the remainder of the first half, but seven minutes after the break, Bibras Natcho gifted GÃ¶teborg the equalizer.
The usually reliable midfielder turned the ball over to Hannes Stiller on the edge of the box and the striker made no mistake in front of goal and tied the score.
In the 63rd minute, Zandberg should have put Hapoel back in the lead, but somehow missed an excellent chance from close range.
Two minutes later, Tel Aviv very nearly shot itself in the foot for a second time.
Enyeama failed to clear the ball on the edge of the area, but Hysen could not take advantage of the 'keeper's blunder and Walid Badier kept the score tied with a goal-line clearance.
Hapoel completely took its foot off the gas in the final third of the encounter, but the Swedes never believed they could peg back the first-leg deficit and the hosts progressed easily to the playoffs.
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