Ovidiu Herea's second-half header was enough to earn FC Rapid Bucureşti a narrow UEFA Europa League Group C victory as Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC were left to rue missed opportunities in a game both sides ended with ten men.
The Israeli outfit enjoyed the better of proceedings at Bloomfield Stadium but, consistently repelled by Dănuţ Coman, were found wanting ten minutes after the interval. Herea did the damage, ghosting unmarked at the back post to meet Rui Duarte's inviting cross with a powerful header.
It was Rapid who had burst out of the blocks on a sweltering night in Israel when the mercury was always closer to 30C than 20C. Hapoel looked nervous, in contrast, and were grateful for the steady hand of experienced captain Walid Badier, who crucially dispossessed Cássio early on.
The hosts nonetheless began imposing themselves, with Omri Kende as forceful as anyone, dovetailing impressively with Shay Abutbul down the right even if his driven crosses never quite found their man. There was no such problem with Abutbul's floated free-kick ten minutes before the break which perfectly bisected Toto Tamuz's run, only for Coman to save the resultant header. His scrambling defenders then diverted Mahran Lala's effort on the rebound over the bar.
Rapid were struggling to clear their lines. When they finally did, Hapoel almost responded with the breakthrough on a counterattack that culminated in a blistering shot from Tamuz. The strong hands of Coman, one of five survivors on either side from the 2-2 draw when these teams met five years ago, saved the day.
At the opposite end, there was nothing Édel Apoula could do about Herea's header, but he showcased his talent with an acrobatic save to keep out Daniel Pancu's arcing shot. A 1-0 defeat, confirmed when Coman tipped wide substitute Salim Toama's excellent late chance, was scant reward, however. Their disappointment was compounded by Avihay Yadin's late dismissal for an incident that also ended Romeo Surdu's night.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.