Forward Eran Zahavi said "it doesn't matter who has the possession, it matters who scores" after Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC earned a 3-0 Group B win against SL Benfica which bore little reflection to the balance of play.
Zahavi scored twice either side of a Douglas da Silva strike as the Group B back markers secured the first UEFA Champions League group stage victory for an Israeli club since 2004 – and an outside chance of stealing past the Portuguese champions into the UEFA Europa League round of 32. Not bad for a team that earned two corners to their guests' 21 over 90 minutes.
"It's one of those games where it doesn't matter who has most of the ball, it matters who scores," said the 23-year-old front man. "In our last game against FC Schalke 04 we had our chances, controlled the ball and the pace of the game, but were unlucky in the end [drawing 0-0 in Israel]. The Champions League is about being efficient, and we were very efficient today."
The statistics back that up: the Tel Aviv outfit had five shots on goal and scored with the first two. Ben Sahar, who came on as a 66th-minute substitute, noted: "We had three or four chances and we scored three times. In other games we have had two chances and scored none. They had their chances but missed them all. We're improving as a team and that makes me happy."
Player Rater Top Player Douglas da Silva symbolised Hapoel's dedication, defending raggedly but ruggedly as Jorge Jesus's men pressed relentlessly. "We were willing and determined," explained the centre-back cum goalscorer. "
All the players kept running. We wanted this victory so badly. Now we have a game against Lyon, the best team in the group, and we'll be ready."
A win for Eli Gutman's side at Olympique Lyonnais, combined with a Benfica loss at home to Schalke, may yet prolong the Israelis' European adventure, but Benfica playmaker Pablo Aimar is desperate to keep the Lisbon club in the race. "Hapoel had a great game," he said. "We tried but it all went wrong. That's football. Now we have to focus on the game against Schalke to continue into the Europe League."
Benfica goalkeeper Roberto, who did not make a save until his team were 2-0 down, summed up the general mood of disbelief among his colleagues at the final whistle: "
We had so many goalscoring opportunities but unfortunately we blew it. Now we have to beat Schalke and prepare for the next match in our domestic league. We have to move on."
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