Super start for Kiryat Shmona

By Danny Caro, September 20, 2012

Hapoel Kiryat Shmona got their Europa League campaign off to an excellent start by holding last season's runners-up Athletic Bilbao to a 1-1 draw at the San Mames Stadium on Thursday night.

The Israeli champions, who were eliminated from the Champions League in the knockout round, took a shock lead with a deflected 14th minute effort from Adrian Rochet in the Group I clash, but they were on the back foot for long spells, especially once Markel Susaeta had equalised.

Kiryat Shmona rode their luck with Susaeta hitting the woodwork twice and Spain forward Florente Llorente pulling the strings in the second half.

The heroics of visiting keeper Danny Amos kept Bilbao at bay although they needed the help of the crossbar to deny the hosts what would've been the winner with Llorente going close again.

There was disappointment for Hapoel Tel Aviv who went down 3-0 at home to cup holders Athletico Madrid in Group B.

Two goals late in the first half stopped the Israelis in their tracks. Cristian Rodríguez opened the scoring with a long-range special on 37 minutes before Diego Costa doubled the lead three minutes later after going round Édel Apoula and slotting home.

A 63rd minute effort from Raúl García sealed the match with a composed finish from a Emre Belözoğlu's corner.

Hapoel striker Tal Ben Haim said: "With all respect to Atlético, we gifted them the game. We made three mistakes and lost.

"That said, it is pure fun to participate in European competition, something new for me."

Midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba, the former Manchester United star, believes that class told in the end.

"We started the game well but we made big mistakes and against a team like Atlético you very quickly pay the price," he said.

"I think that our team can play to the level required and compete, but today we did not show that."

Last updated: 12:08am, September 21 2012