Viktoria Plzen showed Hapoel Tel Aviv the exit from European play last night with a 4-0 thumping in the Czech Republic.
Hapoel, already in last place midway through the group stage, apparently gave up even before the match began. Coach Yossi Abukasis rested his top players ahead of Hapoel's derby with Maccabi Tel Aviv this weekend, and the team paid the price.
Hapoel's problems last night, like those it has suffered from the onset of the season, were mainly on defense. When Walid Badir rests on the bench for the derby, Hapoel is left exposed and confused, not knowing what to do on corner kicks and failing to cover for one another as needed. All four of Plzen's goals came off of crosses, with Hapoel reacting in embarrassing fashion.
The offense, which is usually better, didn't exactly rise to the occasion, either. Without the injured Gil Vermouth or Tal Ben Haim, and with Omer Damari and Hanan Maman being kept fresh for the derby, Hapoel had few scoring chances.
Roi Gordana and Salim Toama were the only bright spots in one of Hapoel's weakest showings this season.
Down 2-0 at halftime, Hapoel played Badir (46th minute ) and Maman (61st minute ) anyway, and both tired. Plzen broke through with goals in the 76th and 84th minutes to seal Hapoel's fate in Europe.
Now Hapoel is left with one competitive framework - the final two Europa League games being for show only. With the European campaign a failure, the real test of the team's season begins now in the Premier League.
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