Celtic ............... 2 Hapoel Tel Aviv ............... 0
CELTIC gave themselves a reasonable cushion to take with them on the long journey to the Holy Land in two weeks' time, but Hapoel Tel Aviv showed enough talent to encourage the suspicion that they may yet make a game of this UEFA Cup first-round tie.
The Parkhead side's win provides the only bright spot in a gloomy week for the Scottish clubs in Europe. After Rangers' depressing 2-0 defeat by Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone each went down last night by 3-0, to Kaiserslautern and Monaco respectively.
Celtic should have at least as good a lead themselves, which would have made redundant anything the Israelis could conjure up on their own ground - but, in the end, they had to settle for two goals from Henrik Larsson to secure a decent enough victory.
Larsson's double, the second from a penalty hotly disputed by the Israelis, did not truly reflect the difference between the sides, but in any European tie at home the chances have to be taken, otherwise the opposition still harbour ambitions.
It is probably the case that Hapoel, a naturally attacking team, will go for broke in their Bloomfield Stadium and that might well leave openings for John Barnes' team to inflict the killer blows. None the less, Celtic had enough creative play on their own pitch to have collected a handful of goals, but at the same time they were careless at the back on occasion.
Sebi Cimirotic missed one glorious chance to become a Tel Aviv hero, for a start, and there were a couple of other heart- stopping moments.
With Mark Viduka not quite fit enough to return, Mark Burchill was in the side again and did well enough, although the Hapoel defence looked the type that would not have relished a physical type like the Australian, who may well prove that in the return. The 45,171 who were on site will expect no less.
Even so, if Kilmarnock and St Johnstone's chances of progressing in the UEFA cup now seem remote, Celtic, according to the Hapoel manager, Dror Kashtan, are no certainties either.
''It is going to be a very hard game for Celtic in Israel.'' he said, ''It is possible for us to win. That is for sure.''
Kashtan went on: ''John Barnes wanted a two-goal lead. He got it, but he has to thank the referee.
''I didn't think it was a penalty. Our player got the ball clearly. To be a referee in this stadium with 50,000 people shouting is hard. He made a mistake, but that is the way it is when a referee comes to a big club like this one in Scotland.
''We got three yellow cards, but we were playing football, not for the Philharmonic Orchestra.''
The Hapoel manager felt that his team had chances in the first half and got caught up in a defensive tangle when Larsson scored the first goal. ''Celtic did press us hard in the second half and may have scored with other chances. But we also had chances. It will be a different game in our own stadium.''
Barnes would not be drawn on the penalty award, which, to be honest, looked fair enough from our vantage point in the stand. Stephane Mahe did seem to be caught by the foot of Shimon Gereson.
The Celtic manager said: ''I don't know about the penalty - I will have to see the TV. But, as far as the referee was concerned, I don't think he was biased in our favour.
''Overall, I have to be satisfied with a two-goal win, but we could have more if we had been sharper around goal. We were a little slack in defence and, of course, another goal would have made the trip much easier.
''However, I am sure we can score over there. They will play a much more attacking game and, if they do, we should get more space. They have good attacking players and we will have to defend well.''
He explained the absence of Viduka as a precaution. ''He could have played, but when you have someone like Burchill you don't need to take the chance.''
Scorer Larsson was happy enough with the scoreline. ''We would like to have scored more, but we will have to wait and see what happens over there. It could be a difficult night if their ground is full. They are a good side with talented players, but I hope we can score in the second leg.''
Burchill had quickly shown his appreciation of a second starting place in successive games when he cleverly worked an inter-passing movement with Larsson that ended with the Swede's shot being held low down by Elimelech.
Some of the Celtic build-up was impressive, none of it more so than the move that led to a Burley shot that went wide.
The striker had one good effort deflected for a corner, but it was Moravcik who then took the spotlight with a bending shot that went just a little too high and then a header over the bar from close range from a Larsson cross, although he really ought to have done better with that chance.
Hapoel clearly intended to absorb as much as they could and hope to spring forward at any opportunity, a tactic they demonstrated with some skill and pace when Igal Antebi did some smart work on the left and sent over a searching pass that found Istavan Pishont, whose right-foot shot was not all that far away.
Hapoel forced their first corner after 20 minutes and, when McNamara cleared it away from the near post, the crowd showed their first signs of restiveness. However, it lasted only four minutes, by which time Celtic had taken the lead.
Moravcik, with that wonderful accuracy that is his gift, sent a dipping ball from deep on the touchline into the penalty area. It dropped over Gereson's head and, as the goalkeeper raced out, Larsson tamed it and flicked it over him and into the net.
It was an exquisite goal and it sent the crowd into party mood.
Stephane Mahe nearly raised the decibel level even higher a few minutes later when he cut in from the left, went past a couple of Hapoel defenders and hit a superb right-foot shot that went only inches past the near post.
The game had been relatively free of fouls or ill temper, but Kfir
Continued on Page 31
Udi spoiled that when he was booked for grappling with Mahe.
Celtic should have gone two ahead after a super bit of play between Larsson and Burley left Burchill with a clear run in on goal, but his shot went across goal and wide of the far post, much to the crowd's chagrin.
Hapoel had rallied after losing the opening goal, none the less, and they recaptured the poise they had shown in defence, even though they rode their luck on occasion. Kashtan had been having tantrums in the dug-out, but he must have gone inside at the interval reasonably pleased with the way things had gone.
Burchill had another fine opportunity in the first minute of the second half when Moravcik laid a beautiful chip on to his head, but the striker's header went a shade too high. However, soon after Celtic did get their second goal,the penalty put away by Larsson.
Mahe ran on to neat pass from Petta and went down as Shimon Gereson challenged. The Belgian referee immediately pointed to the spot, but before the Swede could take the kick, the Hapoel goalkeeper, who had been annoying the crowd with his time-wasting tactics, went too far and was booked.
The keeper came out to check that Larsson had placed the ball correctly, walked back to his goal, lifted his towel out of the back of the net, and wiped the sweat from his face. By then the yellow card was inevitable.
None of it troubled the phlegmatic Henrik, who smashed the spot-kick with a venom inside the post. ''I just concentrated on hitting the penalty.'' he said later.
Soon after, he had a snap-shot cleared off the line as Hapoel strove to hold the fort. They had a lucky escape when a header from Alan Stubbs landed on top of the bar.
Celtic were chasing a third goal and nearly got it when a Larsson cross was deliberately headed down towards Burchill, who could not quite make a proper connection.
Burley was next up with an even better header that brought out a great save from Elimelech.
The goalkeeper did well again to grasp a Stubbs effort after the ball had been beaten out in another melee. However, the danger of losing an away goal remained, as was illustrated by a fine run from Cimirotic, who ought to have scored, but Gould did well to stand up and block his shot.
Lambert had a rare shot at goal and it was a good one that just went outside the post. However, the Israelis survived to fight another day - and, by the looks of them, they will too.
CELTIC - Gould, McNamara, Tebily, Stubbs, Mahe, Burley, Lambert, Moravcik, Petta, Larsson, Burchill. Substitutes - Kharine, Petrov, Mjallby, Blinker, Riseth, Brattbakk, Johnson.
HAPOEL - Elimelech, Antebi, Gereson,, Bakhar, Ohaion, Pishont, Rupnik, Udi, Toema, Cimirotic, Harazi. Substitutes - Hillel, Cohen, Racunica, Balali, Afek, Tikva, Rahmin.
Referee - F de Bleeckeere (Belgium)
qNewcastle United stormed to their first victory in 15 attempts as they took a giant step towards the second round of the UEFA Cup in Sofia.
Bobby Robson's side turned in a hugely professional display in Bulgaria to take the upper hand in the tie and clinch their first win under the new manager.
Nolberto Solano's super free-kick in 51 minutes set the Magpies on the way to a first win since April 11 and Temuri Ketsbaia sealed it 13 minutes from time.
The 1972 and 1984 UEFA Cup winners, Tottenham Hotspur, ended their seven-year absence from Europe with a comfortable 3-0 win against Zimbru Chisinau of Moldova, Oyvind Leonhardsen giving George Graham's side the lead after two minutes and the other goals coming from Chris Perry and Tim Sherwood.
West Ham United also won 3-0 at home, to Osijek of Croatia, goals from Paulo Wanchope and Frank Lampard coming either side of a strike from former Celtic midfield man Paolo Di Canio.
His former Parkhead team-mate, Pierre Van Hooijdonk, and another controversial striker, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, were both on target for their respective clubs. Former Leeds striker Hasselbaink was among the scorers as Atletico Madrid beat Turkish side Ankaragucu 3-0 in Spain, while Van Hooijdonk scored Vitesse Arnhem's equaliser in a 2-1 win over Beira, of Portugal.
There was a shock for Champions League regulars Brondby, humbled 2-0 at Polish minnows Amica Wronki, while Roy Hodgson's Grasshopper of Zurich beat Akademisk Boldklub in Denmark 2-0, former Wimbledon striker Efan Ekoku scoring once.
Result of the night, though,was Roma's 7-0 hammered of Vitoria Setubal of Portugal.