Israeli champions crushed in Scotland

Hapoel Be'er Sheva loses to Celtic 5-2 in Glasgow, all but ending Champions League dream. 'We were soft, and we paid for it.'

Shai Landesman ,

Hapoel Be'er Sheva fans.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva fans.
Photo: Flash 90

Israeli league champions Hapoel Be'er Sheva suffered a potentially fatal blow to its dream of European Champions League (ECL) qualification last night (Wednesday), losing 5-2 to Scottish powerhouse Celtic in Glasgow.

The result means that the Reds from Be'er Sheva must win at least 3-0 in the return leg against Celtic in Be'er Sheva next week in order to advance to the ECL group stage.

The atmosphere around Hapoel was confident entering the match, as the team was coming off a mightily impressive defeat of the heavily favored Olympiakos in the previous round of qualification, but things went terribly wrong very quickly in Glasgow as Tom Rogic opened the scoring for the home team in the 9th minute.

Lee Griffiths then grabbed two goals of his own just before halftime, with a powerful header in the 39th minute joined by a sublime free kick in the 45th, to make the score a whopping 3-0 at the half.

Yet Be'er Sheva managed to claw their way back into the game, getting two goals from newly acquired Striker Lucio and Maor Melikson within two minutes of each other (55, 57) to cut Celtic's lead to 3-2.

If Hapoel had managed to keep that scoreline until the end of the game, it would have been considered an excellent result, especially considering the circumstances, and would have put them in reasonable position to advance next week, but it was not to be.

Goals from French Forward Moussa Dembele (not to be confused with the Belgian player of the same name) in the 73rd minute, and Scott Brown in the 86th, capped a crazy game and pushed Hapoel to the brink of elimination.

Be'er Sheva coach Barak Bachar lamented the result after the game, but refused to give up hope: "When you come to play a team like this, in a stadium like this, and you start soft like we did, you pay. Next week we don't have a great chance but it's possible. We will try to do the unbelievable."

Even if Hapoel can't achieve the unbelievable and get knocked out next week, they may take solace in the fact that their European season will not be over, as they will still take part in the group stage of the second-tier Europa League, a privilege they guaranteed themselves of by reaching this advanced stage in ECL qualification.