A second-half penalty from captain Samat Smakov earned FK Aktobe a narrow advantage over Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Smakov, who also scored from the spot against FC Olimpi Rustavi in the previous round, struck on 67 minutes after Douglas da Silva was penalised for handball. The result means the Kazakh titleholders head into the return on Tuesday well placed to avoid a repeat of last season's disappointment at this stage when they lost 4-3 on aggregate to another Israeli club, Maccabi Haifa FC.
Aktobe could have been in the ascendancy as early as the seventh minute, however, had Alain Bono not directed his effort over the bar after Marat Khayrullin's blocked shot fell to him in the area. That was the exception rather than the rule in terms of first-half chances, although the visitors should have gone into the break in front following a swift counterattack which ended with Eran Zahavi shooting straight at Andrei Sidelnikov.
Hapoel went even closer on 64 minutes when Khayrullin conceded possession to Itay Shechter, who, having rounded Smakov and Sidelnikov, had his shot cleared off the goal line by Khalifa Elhadj Ba. Hapoel paid the penalty for their profligacy three minutes later as Smakov made no mistake from the spot.