|K||Sparta Praha||CFR Cluj|
|C||H. Tel-Aviv||Rapid Wien|
Hapoel Tel Aviv FC's players and staff are still in shock after Thursday's 5-1 victory over SK Rapid Wien at Bloomfield Stadium in UEFA Europa League Group C. "If I'd been told this would be the result before the match, I'd have asked if they'd taken the right medication," said coach Eli Gutman.
Power of five
When Israeli and Austrian sides meet, more often than not it seems someone scores five goals. When Israel re-entered European football in 1992, their first match against an Austria side featuring Tony Polster and Andreas Herzog ended in a 5-2 defeat in Vienna. Eyal Berkovic masterminded Israel's revenge in June 1999 with a 5-0 victory in Tel Aviv, while a decade later Hapoel produced another five-goal salvo.
Consigned to history
Gutman travelled to Austria where he watched Rapid lose 1-0 to SK Sturm Graz at the weekend, but refused to concede that Thursday's showing was Hapoel's best performance of the season. "I still think our first half performance away to IFK Göteborg was our best display so far," he insisted, adding coolly: "My players are mature enough to know that this match is already part of the club's history and gives us no advantage whatsoever ahead of our next game."
Hapoel are second in Group C, level on points with leaders Hamburger SV, a stark contrast to their rather disappointing domestic league position; they are sixth in the 16-team Ligat Ha'Al table. Gutman watched Etey Shechter torment Rapid, but also noted that his form – like the club's – was changeable. "Sometimes Shechter shoots from 16 metres and hits the back of the net and at times he manages to hit the post from five metres," he said.
'An amazing match'
Shechter, meanwhile, is enjoying working with Gutman once more, his coach for a short time at Maccabi Netanya FC. "At 22, I think this is the best match of my short career," he said. "I was excited like I had never been before by our performance and by our fans. It was an amazing match. Playing in Europe is a bonus for us. We look really good in general but in Europe, as opposed to the league, we score goals as well."
Stand-in captain Gil Vermouth scored a spectacular one against Rapid, and feels his side's lack of reputation on the continent is playing into their hands. "It's hard to explain what is happening here," the 24-year-old midfielder said. "We are a good side but European teams seem to underestimate us, which so far suits us just fine. Just before scoring I managed to nutmeg two defenders which is something I haven't managed to do in the league."
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