Atletico opens Europa League with win

BY foxsports • September 20, 2012

Atletico Madrid made a confident start to their defense of the Europa League title with a comfortable 3-0 win in Israel in their first-ever meeting with Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Even without the prolific Radamel Falcao, fresh from his hat-trick in his side's 4-1 win over Chelsea in the Super Cup last month, the Spaniards had too much class for their hosts, who qualified for the competition thanks to their success in this year's Israeli State Cup.

Hapoel went into the game on the back of five straight wins, conceding just one goal in the process, but they had no answer to the all-round skill of Atletico, who have now won 14 consecutive matches in European competition since a 2-0 defeat at Udinese in last season's group stage.

The danger signs were in evidence from the 12th minute when a brilliant header by Diego Costa from 18 yards out went over the bar.

Tel Aviv goalkeeper Edel Apoula kept his side in the game with saves from Raul Garcia and Diego Costa while Toto Tamuz had the best chance in the first half for the home side when his volleyed left-footed strike from the right-hand side of the penalty area went wide.

The visitors' pressure paid off on 37 minutes when Cristian Rodriguez unleashed an unstoppable 20-yard strike from just outside the area that beat Apoula and flew into the top right-hand corner.

Three minutes later Adrian Lopez found Diego Costa with a neat pass and the 23-year-old striker rounded the goalkeeper before tapping the ball into an empty net to double the holders' lead.

Any hope the home side had of getting back into the match was ended on 62 minutes when Raul Garcia timed his run perfectly to lose his marker and met Emre Belozoglu's corner with his right foot to score the visitors' third goal.

Hapoel had Mor Shushan and former Fulham and Leicester player John Pantsil booked for unsporting behavior, along with the visitors' Silvio.