Eli Guttman, coach of Hapoel Tel Aviv, believes that the key to his team reaching the last 32 of the Europa League was beating Celtic in Israel.
Beaten 2-0 by the Scots at Celtic Park last night, Hapoel’s progress to the knockout stages was confirmed after Hamburg beat Rapid Vienna by the same score.
Guttman believes that a strong second half showing at the corresponding fixture at the Bloomfield made it possible.
"The second 45 minutes in Tel Aviv was the main point," said Guttman, whose side qualify along with Hamburg.
"Celtic were leading 1-0 and we won - and that was the main point."
Hapoel now face a showdown with Hamburg for top spot after the Germans.
"We started as the underdog," said Guttman. "If you were going to tell me we would qualify with Hamburg, it's a big surprise. I'm proud we did it."
Looking back at the defeat in Glasgow, where goals from , Guttman said: “"Celtic wholeheartedly deserved their win. They played much more aggressively than we did and blocked off our key players very effectively. And they were very, very effective on the counter-attack.”
The respect was mutual from Celtic boss Tony Mowbray. He said: “In Tel Aviv, I think we were the better team for a long, long time and yet they ultimately deserved the victory. They played good football but never really threatened our goal until the last quarter of an hour. For whatever reason, they scored two goals that night.
"You can use all the excuses about the humidity and the heat, but they are a good football side as they have proven throughout the rest of their games.
“I watched them score eight goals against Rapid Vienna on DVD and they scored twice away in Hamburg. They are a good side."