Hapoel Tel-Aviv made history by winning 2-1 at Parma AC to reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
Parma AC 1-2 Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Agg: 1-2)
The achievement is all the more notable given Parma's home record in European competition. They have lost just twice since November 1993, most recently last season to Lille OSC. But the 1993 defeat - in a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup tie won by the Italians on penalties - was against another Israeli side, Maccabi Haifa, making Israel anything but the promised land for Parma.
Hapoel coach Dror Kashtan recognised the importance of the night for his club and the country. He said: "This is the biggest night in the history of Hapeol football. It is an important result for both Israel and the Israeli people. I'm happy that there were so many fans here. Four thousand people in the stadium gave us the power to do this. This is a great step for football in Israel and we are beginning to understand how European sides are playing."
Curse of history
Whether or not the curse of history was looming large over the Italian side, Tel-Aviv's performance cannot be faulted. They arrived knowing that, with the away goal rule, every time they hit the back of the net their efforts would be doubly rewarding.
For the opening half-hour Parma dominated, but the Israelis made their presence felt with a series of muscular challenges that bruised more than the pride of the home side. The opening goal, when it came, was something of a surprise, arriving very much against the run of play.
Slovenian international Milan Osterc beat the offside trap in the 31st minute with apparent ease and from the edge of the penalty area fired in a low drive to the right of Parma keeper Sébastien Frey. The stadium behind the Tel-Aviv goal erupted as the visiting supporters, who had descended on the game in significant numbers, celebrated a goal that swung the balance firmly in favour of Tel-Aviv.
As Parma seemed to wilt, Tel-Aviv took more of a grip on the tie. They deserved to go into the interval a goal to the good and although Parma made two half-time substitutions in an attempt to get back into the match, it made little difference. It was a fact alluded to by Parma coach Pietro Carmignani after the match. He said: "In the first 30 minutes we were in control, but when they scored, it damaged our morale. We tried to change things to make it work, but their defence and counter-attacking were too solid."
Tel-Aviv wrap it up
Nine minutes into the second period, Tel-Aviv had the game wrapped up. Former Hungarian international István Pisont met Pino Balili's well-weighted through-ball and lashed his shot left-footed past Frey at the Parma goalkeeper's near-post. Parma chins sunk further on to chests.
There was some consolation for the Italians, Emiliano Bonazzoli latching on to Marco Marchionni's 85th-minute square pass to drive home from close range. However, with two goals required in the last five minutes to rescue the tie, it was always going to be a bridge too far for the Italians. In added time, insult was added to injury when Nir Rahamin saved spectacularly from Marco di Vaio to deny Parma even the compensation of a draw. Well beaten, they trudged off to consider next season's possibilities.