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French champ keeps host winless with 3-1 defeat

Bloomfield Stadium was filled with a festive atmosphere Wednesday evening. The only problem was the result of Hapoel Tel Aviv's Champions League match with Lyon, which left Israeli fans somewhat sad.

Coach Eli Guttman was hoping his team would warm the hearts of Tel Aviv fans who had passed up on their Simhat Torah meal and give them a little joy after Hapoel's recent trials and tribulations, but the French side would not cooperate and left with a 3-1 victory in hand.

The match was yet another important lesson for Guttman and company about Europe's most prestigious competition.

If Hapoel had hoped that Lyon's troubles in the French Liga 1, where it lags in the relegation zone and its coach has a sword hanging over his head, would play into Hapoel's hands and give the Israelis their first European points, those wishes were quickly dashed. The French set the tone on the pitch and were not intimidated by the thousands of fans packing the stadium.

Lyon came to collect a few points and counted on Hapoel's defensive woes to lend them a hand. They did not have to wait long, as Walid Badir commited a foul that gave them a penalty kick in the seventh minute, which Michel Bastos converted into a 1-0 lead. Then Dedi Ben Dayan gifted Lyon by poorly clearing the ball from Tel Aviv's penalty area. Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos received the ball and fired it back into the net for a 2-0 lead in the 36th minute.

Hope in short supply with Schalke ahead

Tel Aviv goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama provided some hope for Hapoel in the 79th minute with a penalty kick to halve Lyon's lead, but the French had no intention of squandering their lead at this point - certainly not against such a porous, spread-out defense. Hapoel succumbed four minutes into injury time as Miralem Pjanic sealed the result with Lyon's third goal.

As if Hapoel doesn't have enough troubles, its next opponent in Europe seems to have finally resolved its own problems. 50,000 fans saw the German club blank Benfica 2-0. Raul Gonzalez and Ivan Rakitic missed shots on goal before Jefferson Farfan put Schalke up 1-0 in the 73rd minute, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar doubled the lead in the 85th minute.

"It was an important win and gives us a fresh push ahead of the next game against Hapoel Tel Aviv," said Gonzalez. "We played well against a great team, and from our perspective it was the first step toward the next stage."

Benfica midfielder Javi Garcia commented, "We played well for 70 minutes, but it's hard to stop a team like Schalke for an entire match."