Hapoel Tel Aviv Defeats Celtic 2-1 in Europa League Soccer

Hapoel coach Eli Guttman: I told the players we would win, and we don't play to draw.

Sefi Krupsky
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Sefi Krupsky

Maaran Lala scored the winning goal in the 88th minute to clinch a 2-1 victory for host Hapoel Tel Aviv over Scotland's Glasgow Celtic in the opening match of the teams' Europa League group play.

Gil Vermuth made the goal possible by breaking out from midfield to the goal line before passing off the ball to Lala for the winner. The score completed a comeback after going down 1-0 in the first half, a lead Celtic held until the 75th minute.

"At the half I told the players we would win, and we don't play to draw," said Hapoel coach Eli Guttman after the match. "We realized that when we pressure them they lose the ball. We put in attacking players, and we took a risk but we wanted a decisive result. We played our game according to plan."

Celtic came into town with a reputation as a major European club, but the Scots' level of play suggested that they are not as scary as they once were and that they may be overly generous with the way they spend their money. Not that anything should be taken away from Tel Aviv's performance. Even on an off night for Celtic, Hapoel had to play its best to win, and the team played the best it has all season.

Guttman started out with five midfielders but quickly figured out it wasn't all that bad and played with two strikers in front. Midfielders Nemanja Vucicevic and Vermuth were the men of the match, while Avihai Yadin and Douglas Da Silva also had outstanding performances.

Despite the strong showing, Celtic drew first blood, when Georgios Samaras exploited a miscue by Walid Badir to put the Hoops up 1-0.

Hapoel went mad on the attack from the onset of the second half but did not break through until the 75th minute, when Vucicevic fired off a shot past the Celtic goalkeeper, setting up the situation for Lala's heroics.