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Plzeň hit back to leave Hapoel on the ropes

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC 1-2 FC Viktoria Plzeň
The Czech side halted their disappointing run, coming from behind to beat their ten-man hosts in a game in which the woodwork was hit four times.

Viktoria Plzeň's Marián Čišovský tracks Hapoel forward Toto Tamuz
Viktoria Plzeň's Marián Čišovský tracks Hapoel forward Toto Tamuz ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Viktoria Plzeň overcame a lacklustre first-half display and a 1-0 deficit to beat Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC in Israel and open up a five-point gap between second and third in Group B.

Plzeň's run of four games without a win looked set to continue with the hosts leading through Hanan Maman's first-half opener, but the match was turned around either side of the interval. Pavel Horváth and František Rajtoral made it 2-1 and Hapoel's hopes all but vanished when Iyad Khutaba was sent off just after the hour, though Salim Toama later fired a free-kick against the upright.

It was the second time Josef Abuksis's team had been denied by the woodwork and for the first 40 minutes there was really only one side in this UEFA Europa League encounter – and it was not Plzeň. Time and again the Czech club's high defensive line was punctured by Maman's majestic passing, exemplified on 11 minutes when a gorgeous ball delivered with the outside of his boot sent Tal Ben Haim clear. The winger bent his shot onto the foot of the post.

Hapoel were soon ahead though, Maman losing marker Michal Ďuriš to meet Roei Gordana's corner with a near-post header, and they had chances to extend their advantage before Plzeň awoke with half-time approaching. Daniel Kolář headed onto an upright before Pavel Vrba's men equalised with the last touch of the half, Horváth driving in following a slick move.

Plzeň, drawing stability from a deeper back line, were in front ten minutes after the restart as the unmarked Rajtoral nodded in following a poorly cleared corner and the pendulum swung further when Khutaba received his second booking. Rajtoral rattled the woodwork after Toama had gone close; but not close enough. Hapoel travel to the Czech Republic in a fortnight knowing only victory will do.