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Hapoel hold nerve to quell Salzburg

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC 1-1 FC Salzburg (agg: 4-3)
Eli Gutman's side became the third Israeli team to reach the group stage as Eran Zahavi confirmed their progress.

Hapoel Tel-Aviv players celebrate progress to the group stage
Hapoel Tel-Aviv players celebrate progress to the group stage ©Getty Images

FC Salzburg's aspirations of a UEFA Champions League group-stage berth were dashed in Israel for the second consecutive season as Eran Zahavi's added-time equaliser confirmed Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC's progression at the Bloomfield stadium.

A 3-2 defeat in the home leg had left Salzburg facing the prospect of elimination at the same stage as their last campaign, when Maccabi Haifa FC completed a 5-1 aggregate triumph, but their hopes were raised when Douglas da Silva scored an own goal three minutes before the interval. Hapoel – still ahead on away goals – did not panic, however, and Zahavi's 92nd-minute drive ensured they would become only the third Israeli side to reach the group stage.

The opening 20 minutes were cagey with Hapoel's cause not helped by Etay Shechter being replaced in the starting XI by Victor Mare just prior to kick-off due to a hamstring injury. The contest began to open up when Ben Sahar headed narrowly off target from Dedi Ben-Dayan's cross. The hosts appeared to be gaining the upper hand only for Gonzalo Zárate to pierce their offside trap and fire a presentable chance over.

Eli Gutman's charges did not heed the warning, though, allowing Louis Ngwat-Mahop to escape untracked down the right flank and whip in a low cross that Douglas unwittingly turned into his own net after a wayward punch by Vincent Enyeama. Zahavi immediately fired wide in response while Sahar's swerving effort nearly deceived Gerhard Tremmel after the break as the home side refocused.

Gil Vermouth came agonisingly close to quelling Hapoel's nerves only for his fierce drive to cannon against the post and run along the line to safety. Sahar and Vermouth both failed to beat Tremmel from ten metres but a place in Thursday's draw was finally secured when Yadin slipped in Zahavi and his low drive beat Tremmel at his near post.

"It's a dream come true," said an emotional Gutman. "What a team they are. It was not the greatest game and we conceded a goal from nothing but I am honoured and privileged that for the second season in succession a coach from Israel has taken a side to the Champions League group stage." Salzburg will now compete in the UEFA Europa League, in which they reached the round of 32 last season.