Hapoel TA no match for Lyon at Bloomfield

Enyeama converts penalty in 3-1 loss; Reds now looking ahead to Netanya.

Hapoel Tel Aviv (photo credit: Bernat Armangue/AP)
Hapoel Tel Aviv
(photo credit: Bernat Armangue/AP)
Less than 12 hours after falling 3-1 to Olympique Lyon at Bloomfield Stadium on Wednesday night, Hapoel Tel Aviv was back in training, with coach Eli Gutman doing his best to lift his players ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter at Maccabi Netanya.
Hapoel played well for large parts of the first ever Champions League match at Bloomfield, but was always going to struggle after falling behind to Michel Bastos’s seventh minute penalty.
Lyon was in complete control after Bastos doubled its lead with an unstoppable rocket from the edge of the box in the 36th minute, and the Frenchmen cruised for most of the second half.
Vincent Enyeama made sure that Hapoel won’t follow in the footsteps of Maccabi Haifa – who last season became the first team in Champions League history to end the group stage without points or goals – when he scored from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, becoming only the third goalkeeper in the competition’s history to find the back of the net.
However, Miralem Pjanic guaranteed Lyon would leave Israel with all three points with his stoppage time strike, meaning Hapoel will have to wait at least until October 20 when it visits Schalke 04 in Germany to claim historic points in the Champions League.
“I’m proud of you,” Gutman told his players at the Hodorov training ground on Thursday. “We played a good match. You should lift your heads. There is no snowball effect. We are a good team and we will prove that.”
Gutman was pleased with his side’s overall performance on Wednesday.
“We not only scored a goal, but we also played well in the second half and pressured Lyon,” he said. “We made mistakes and we paid for them. Lyon did its job. They weren’t that much better than us. The second goal made all the difference. I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m proud of my players and with the way they fought and performed.”
Hapoel has won just one match since beating Red Bull Salzburg 3-2 in Austria on August 18 in the first leg of the Champions League playoffs, with the 5-1 Premier League victory over Hapoel Ashkelon coming over a month ago.
After picking up just four points from its first four league matches, and with its last league encounter ending in a 4-2 home defeat to Ironi Kiryat Shmona, Saturday’s meeting with Netanya has taken on an added significance.
“The next Champions League match against Schalke is the last thing on our mind,” Gutman said. “We are now fully focused on Maccabi Netanya.”
Striker Ben Sahar echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“We had a lot of chances and it is a shame we couldn’t score,” Sahar said. “We are pleased with the way we played, but not with the result. We looked much better than we have done recently and I hope we continue to improve on Saturday.
We’re not thinking of stopping Schalke’s Raul or Huntleaar, we’re far more concerned with Netanya’s Hen Ezra.”
Maccabi Netanya has impressed so far this season and is one of just three unbeaten teams in the league. Reuven Atar’s men have won both of their home matches to date, including a 4-1 victory over Betar Jerusalem in the first weekend of the season.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv will look to extend its Premier League winning streak to four matches on Saturday when it hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva at Bloomfield in front of empty stands due to its fans’ unruliness.
Also Saturday, Hapoel Haifa visits Hapoel Acre, Hapoel Ashkelon hosts Bnei Yehuda, Hapoel Beersheba welcomes Bnei Sakhnin and Maccabi Petah Tikva faces Ashdod SC.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Betar Jerusalem at Kiryat Eliezer Stadium in an intriguing encounter on Sunday night, with Hapoel Ramat Gan visiting top-of-the-table Ironi Kiryat Shmona on Monday.