Hapoel Tel Aviv became the first Israeli club ever to oust a Scandinavian team from the UEFA Cup, when it beat AIK Solna 1-0 last night and won on aggregate by the same margin. The hero of the match was no doubt coach Guy Luzon, who labored day and night to develop an innovative way his players could bore its rivals to death until they would slip up and provide Tel Aviv with a golden opportunity.
That gift came in the form of a penalty kick from a reasonable distance from the goal. Reuven Oved, the prodigal son, took that ball and sent it sailing into the upper part of the net with the help of the Swedish goalie. The lone goal thus sends Hapoel to the group stage of the competition. The Swedes will have to settle for a fight for third place in their league.
Solna looked particularly bad last night, worse than its game during the scoreless draw two weeks ago in Bloomfield Stadium. While its defensive line managed over and over to repel attacks by Lior Asulin and Fabio Junior, the rest of the team simply didn't function. The midfield and the wing barely attacked and looked confused on defense.
Despite this, they managed to exploit one or two errors by Brazilian Gabriel dos Santos to get close to the Tel Aviv goal posts but no more than that.
In contrast, Hapoel looked its usual - very organized but oh so very ordinary. Its defense worked okay, but lack of imagination on offense left the club virtually harmless. That is, of course, until Oved was fouled 20 meters from the goal. Baruch Dego signaled that he really wanted to take the kick, and Walid Badir made his case, but Luzon went with Oved. It seems he knew what he was doing. Oved's kick made a small curve and found the space between the gloves of the Swedish goalkeeper and sailed straight into the goal.
Oved's score put the game into a terminal coma, even more boring until the clock finally put it out of its misery. Let's hope we'll see Hapoel play a little more exciting soccer in the coming games because it really wasn't that fun to watch this match.
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