Kiryat Shmona recovered from a miserable first half and nearly drew with Lyon but fell in the closing minutes yesterday in its second Europa League group stage match.
The 4-3 home loss spoiled the debut of head coach Barak Bakhar, who replaced Gili Landau on Wednesday. Kiryat Shmona dropped to third in Group I, though it would have been in the same place albeit with a point more with a draw because Sparta Prague beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to move into second.
The match began auspiciously with Shimon Abuhazeira receiving a cross from Adrian Rochet in the seventh minute and putting Kiryat Shmona up 1-0 against the French powerhouse.
But Lyon was not in a mood for an upset and quickly recovered with three goals over the next 23 minutes from Gueida Fofana, Fabian Monzon and Anthony Reveillere. Lyon executed the proper balance of intelligent passing and efficient movement to take control of the half.
Still, Kiryat Shmona dug down and nearly came back to earn a draw. Left defender Lior Levi was first up in the 51st minute. He cut through the left wing toward the center and hit the target.
15 minutes later, Abuhazeira was fouled in the penalty area, seemingly out of nowhere. He converted the penalty shot to draw even at 3-3.
The home team seemed poised to earn a point - a moral victory against a club like Lyon. But Fofana netted Lyon's fourth goal during injury time, silencing the fans.
"I'm proud of the players," said coach Bakhar. "They gave it their all and I have no complaints about anyone. But it's very disappointing."
"It hurts to lose like this, but we're looking forward," added Kiryat Shmona goalkeeper Danny Amos.
Israel's other Europa League entrant, Hapoel Tel Avi, drew against Group B rival Academica 1-1 in Portugal. The result leaves Hapoel Tel Aviv in last place.
Omer Damari, who came into the game on the hour, saved the point for the visitors with a goal one minute into injury time.
"We're happy we managed to equalize and bring away an important point for the long haul in this group," said Hapoel Tel Aviv coach Yossi Abukasis. "We didn't give up on the game even at the very end, and this shows we have character. I'm happy the substitutes changed the game."
Abukasis says the team still has much to improve and change, but the result keeps the team in the picture for advancing to the next stage. "After we conceded a goal, we played more aggressively and we were exposed from behind, but it paid off in the end," he added.
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