September 20, 2012
Shmona show promise
Hapoel Kiryat Shmona produced a battling performance to secure a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao in the opening match of their debut campaign in the Europa League group stages.
Adrian Rochet's goal gave the Israeli champions the lead against last season's beaten finalists at San Mames.
Although Markel Susaeta levelled the scores before half-time and Athletic looked the more likely winners after the break, Gili Landau's men held on for a point on a memorable night.
The home side had the game's first chance, with Oscar de Marcos seeing his seventh-minute shot saved by goalkeeper Daniel Amos.
However, Hapoel stunned their hosts in the 13th minute when captain Rochet's well-struck effort from 25 yards out flew past goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz and into the bottom corner.
The hosts sought a way back but were restricted to a solitary effort from De Marcos, who shot wide in the 34th minute, before Susaeta brought them level.
Just five first-half minutes remained when Xabier Castillo crossed for Susaeta to convert, right-footed, from 12 yards out.
Fernando Llorente replaced Ismael Lopez in the early stages of the second half, and within seconds the Spain international striker had a shot tipped over by Amos.
Athletic continued to press and Susaeta brought a save out of Amos, before Llorente fired wide in the 57th minute.
The visitors had Dan Einbinder and Dusan Matovic booked in rapid succession either side of the hour mark as the pressure began to tell for a side whose European history prior to this season was restricted to the qualifying rounds of this competition four seasons ago.
Ibai Gomez's testing corner was tipped around a post by Amos, as the one-sided nature of the second half continued.
De Marcos was next to threaten, in the 78th minute, with a right-foot effort from 20 yards - but Amos found this effort easier to deal with.
However, Athletic appeared to run out of ideas as the clock ticked down and it was the visitors who came closest to a winner in the closing stages, with Laszlo Lencse's shot testing Iraizoz in the 87th minute.
|Athletic Bilbao||Hapoel Kiryat Shmona|
|Markel Susaeta (40')||Adrian Rochet (13')|