Hapoel Tel-Aviv pulled off the finest result by an Israeli team in the history of European club football when knocking Chelsea FC out of the UEFA Cup.
Hapoel Tel-Aviv became the first Israeli side ever to reach the third round of the UEFA Cup after sealing a 3-1 aggregate win over Chelsea FC with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
With five of the six players who had not travelled to Israel back in the team Chelsea were at full strength, and they had to be as Tel-Aviv were already 2-0 up from the first leg two weeks ago. The London side could have gone ahead as early as the fourth minute when Mario Stanic failed to convert a fine free-kick from Emmanuel Petit.
Goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech was in inspired form, denying Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink twice in barely a minute, while his defensive team-mates performed similar heroics as Chelsea rained shot after shot down on the Tel-Aviv goal.
Against the run of play, Tel-Aviv stretched their aggregate advantage to 3-0 on 36 minutes when Slovenian striker Milan Osterc slotted home after Istavan Pishont had made the most of a defensive lapse by William Gallas.
Gianfranco Zola, one of three attacking substitutes sent on by manager Claudio Ranieri at half-time, equalised after 64 minutes, but despite almost continual one-way pressure from Chelsea, Hapoel held on for a famous victory.
'Moment of joy'
"This is a great moment for Israel and one of the very few moments of joy for our nation in the last few months," Hapoel's owner and director Moshe Theumim said afterwards. "I am delighted for our club, the players and for the thousands of supporters who made the long trip here.
'Courage and heart'
"We have demonstrated that we might not have the budget or be as big as some other clubs in some ways, but we have courage and heart that maybe they do not have." He also praised his coach Dror Kashtan, as "the best coach in Israel".
"You will be hearing more of him," he added.
Kashtan said: "I am so happy. This is a fantastic victory for the club as we have become the first Israeli side to reach the third round of the UEFA Cup. But it is also a historic moment for the whole country. My players were so courageous and I give Shavit Elimelech ten out of ten for the way he played in goal."
'A very bitter blow'
The mood was rather more downbeat in the Chelsea camp. "We played well enough, and created many chances," said manager Claudio Ranieri, "but to lose like this is a very bitter blow. I picked the side I thought would win this game - you need 13 or 14 players to win a game sometimes, but we had no luck tonight and paid the price."