Beitar Jerusalem scored three times in the last five minutes to claim a stunning 4-3 win over Hungarian side Vasas in the first leg of their Europa League first qualifying round tie.
Hosting the first leg in Petah Tikva due to a UEFA-inflicted punishment for the behaviour of their fans, the club are looking to reach the group stage of continental competition for the first time in club history, and Brazilian midfielder Georginho, on his debut, got them off to the perfect start, when he fired them ahead after 19 minutes, but Yevgen Pavlov’s double before the break gave the Hungarian side a half-time advantage.
They seemed to be heading out of the tournament when Tamas Kulcsar extended their lead in the 52nd minute, and held onto that advantage until the 88th minute. Yossi Benayoun, also making his debut, reduced the deficit when he tapped home after fine work by Itay Shechter, before playing provider, sending Idan Vered through, who rounded the goalkeeper to level the score.
The comeback was complete in the second minute of injury time through Erik Sabo, meaning they take the advantage into next Thursday’s second leg. Beitar coach Sharon Mimer said: “God loved us today, we made a lot of mistakes and I’m happy that we can try and correct them on the back of a win. If we will be ready next week we will complete the job.”
Benayoun said: “To come back from 3-1 isn’t easy against any opponent and I’m happy we managed to do it.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv, who are looking to qualify for the group stage of the competition for a third successive win, claimed a 2-0 home win over Albanaian side KF Tirana. Goals in each half from Yonatan Cohen and Eli Dasa seeing Jordi Cruyff’s first game in charge off to a winning start.