Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC kept up their habit of scoring late UEFA Europa League goals to defeat Celtic FC 2-1 in their Group C opener and victorious goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama hailed their fighting spirit.
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Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC have made a habit of scoring late goals in their UEFA Europa League campaign, and after their dramatic opening Group C success against Celtic FC on Thursday night, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama hailed their fighting spirit.
In the third qualifying round against IFK Göteborg, the Israeli side scored three in the last 17 minutes to win 3-1 away in the first leg, then in the play-off there were added-time goals in both matches against FK Teplice as they edged through 3-2 on aggregate. In their first group stage game, they trailed Celtic FC with 15 minutes left but equalised through Nemanja Vučićević before substitute Maaran Lala won the game 2-1 two minutes from time.
Prior to kick-off, retired Hapoel goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech told uefa.com that their run to the 2001/02 UEFA Cup quarter-finals had given them the experience to beat almost any European team at the Bloomfield Stadium. His successor Enyeama played a key role as Celtic were added to their list of scalps, making a number of vital saves to keep his side in the game. "As usual we were fighting like dogs against the big boys; we fought and, God willing, succeeded."
Georgios Samaras opened the scoring for Celtic, and had a tremendous duel with the Nigerian goalkeeper, who tipped his early header on to the crossbar "Samaras tested me right from the start as I never expected a header from him," said Enyeama, who knows he will be tested again on 1 October at a Hamburger SV team aiming to recover from a 3-0 loss at SK Rapid Wien. "The game in Hamburg is definitely going to be a big one because they lost in Vienna, so we don't know what will happen. We are just expecting a tough time there."
Celtic will be facing Rapid that night and defender Gary Caldwell is still coming to terms with the reverse in Tel-Aviv. "We did very well first half and got ourselves in front," he said. "But in the second half didn't really get going, didn't start, gave them too much of the ball too easily. The goal was coming for them and when it did we had no answer to it, really." Looking ahead, Caldwell added: "It's a long group, away games are always tough, so we have to take it on the chin, learn from it and come back. The home games are going to be important to us as they were in Champions League campaigns. We have to get back to winning ways, and quickly, or the group can run away from you."