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Battered Hapoel stand firm to beat Benfica

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC 3-0 SL Benfica
Eran Zahavi struck twice either side of a Douglas da Silva effort as Hapoel recorded a first Group B win and Benfica were eliminated.

Battered Hapoel stand firm to beat Benfica
Battered Hapoel stand firm to beat Benfica ©UEFA.com

Two goals from Eran Zahavi either side of a Douglas da Silva effort gave Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC a European lifeline as SL Benfica's near-relentless pressure came to nothing and their UEFA Champions League hopes ended.

The Portuguese champions came forward regularly but were unable to apply the decisive touch in front of goal, allowing Hapoel to secure the first Israeli UEFA Champions League group stage win since 2004 and the club's debut success in the competition. FC Schalke 04's 3-0 victory against Olympique Lyonnais now leaves Benfica unable to finish above third and Hapoel can even snatch that on Matchday 6 if they defeat the French side and the Eagles fail to overcome the section leaders.

Eli Gutman's side could consider themselves reasonably fortunate not to go in at half-time with the match already beyond them. Benfica put them on the back foot from the off and won 11 corners in the first 45 minutes compared to none for the home team.

Early on, Da Silva had to hook to safety as a header from Luisão had team-mates queuing up to score. Nicolás Gaitán then had a shot deflected wide and Vincent Enyeama saved from both Javier Saviola and Eduardo Salvio, before Dedi Ben-Dayan – perhaps unwittingly – fended away Fábio Coentrão's overhead kick.

When Shay Abutbul stepped up to take a 24th-minute free-kick, his side had barely strung two passes together inside the opposition half. However, his sweeping delivery found the head of Zahavi, with a deflection off Benfica defender David Luiz sending the ball just inside Roberto's right-hand post.

Alan Kardec almost replied within a couple of minutes but stroked wide when superbly placed and with only Enyeama to beat. Hapoel then defended their goal valiantly, if somewhat haphazardly, until the interval, which was followed by the introduction of Óscar Cardozo in place of Saviola.

Benfica poured forward again and Abutbul made a divine but desperate clearance from a Luisão header, as well as a more fortuitous one to keep out Javi García's goal-bound flick. Fábio Coentrão's drive was nodded over by Da Silva, Enyeama smothered a Javi García effort and Kardec somehow nodded wide from Maxi Pereira's cross.

By the time Hapoel won their first corner on 74 minutes, Benfica had had no joy with 18 of their own. However, the Israeli side made theirs count, with the ball falling fortuitously off Javi García for Da Silva to score from close range. Zahavi contributed a stylish third in added time, and while the final corner count was 21-2 to Benfica, Hapoel cornered the market in goals.