Soccer Europa League Hap. Tel Aviv Eases Into Group Stage

After winning the first playoff leg 3-1 in Luxembourg last week, Hapoel only had to play well enough to get the job done. And it succeeded.

Hapoel Tel Aviv easily dispatched of visiting Dudelange 4-0 yesterday, to advance to the group stage of the Europa League.

After winning the first playoff leg 3-1 in Luxembourg last week, Hapoel only had to play well enough to get the job done. And it succeeded.

The group stage will ensure extra income for the Reds, who had a harder time last weekend in their Premier League season opener with a mediocre outing against Hapoel Ramat Gan.

Coach Nitzan Shirazi experimented with different strategies to shake things up. He played John Paintsil on the right side for several minutes, with no success. Then he looked for help on the left wing for Tal Ben Haim, who ended up managing on his own. Omer Damari and Victor Merey were left on the front line with nothing to do.

The entry of Hanan Maman and Salim Toama in the second half changed the tone of the game. First Toama set up Maman for the game's first goal in the 68th minute. Merey exploited a defensive mix-up 11 minutes later, to send Hapoel up 2-0. Maman earned a brace in the 84th minute, and Toama fired a rocket in the 88th minute to complete the scoring.

Champion's League holds draw

Defending champion Chelsea will take on Juventus, while Real Madrid will face Manchester City in this season's Champions League group stage.

Yesterday's draw pitched the title holder against a Juventus side that stormed to the Italian Serie A title and was unbeaten in all competitions last season apart from the Italian Cup final. Group E also includes Shakhtar Donetsk and Champions League debutant Nordsjaelland.

Madrid has been handed the toughest draw - with three league champions in Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group D. Bayern Munich, last year's runner-up, is in Group F with Valencia, Lille and BATE Borisov.

Four-time winner Barcelona faces Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic. Manchester United, which failed to clear the group stage last season, also has a relatively weak group with Braga, Galatasaray and Cluj.