Hapoel Tel-Aviv claimed a late 2-1 first-leg victory over Rangers in their Uefa Cup Round of 32 clash in Israel.
In front of a passionate crowd in the Middle East, goals from Salim Toama and Barukh Dego gave Hapoel the upper hand in the tie, though Nacho Novo's second-half strike means there is plenty to play for in the second leg next Thursday.
Gers boss Walter Smith made three changes to the side that defeated Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League on Sunday, with Gavin Rae, Karl Svensson and Novo all coming into the starting XI for Kevin Thomson, Ugo Ehiogu and Charlie Adam.
On an immaculate looking pitch at Tel-Aviv's Bloomfield Stadium, both sides contributed to a relatively even-looking first half of play.
It was hosts Hapoel that created early chances through right-back Dani Bondarv and Nigerian striker Ibe Ogbona before Gers goalkeeper Allan McGregor was forced to save from Wellington's fierce drive.
The Old Firm club created their first chance through Novo, but the Spaniard was unable to direct his header in at the far post after Chris Burke turned Bondarv inside out before crossing into the Hapoel box.
Burke was then involved in Rangers' next chance, as his corner from the right found David Weir's head, but the former Everton man put the ball well over the crossbar.
The Israeli club remained a threat going forward, with Dego striking a low drive just wide of McGregor's goal.
The game looked to be heading for a 0-0 half-time scoreline, but Hapoel stunned their Scottish opponents with a superb free-kick strike from Toama.
After Weir had fouled Ogbona near Rangers' box, Toama struck a left-foot set-piece strike past a helpless McGregor to give Hapoel a one-goal lead at the break.
The visitors needed to get back into the contest, and they had claims for a penalty waved away after Hapoel defender Ram Doani looked to have handled Weir's header in the home side's box.
The Gers remained persistent, and their early pressure paid off on 53 minutes as Barry Ferguson's free-kick took a huge deflection off of Dego and hit the post before an unmarked Novo knocked the loose ball into the net with his thigh for 1-1.
To their credit, Hapoel worked their way back into the match, with Elyaniv Barda volleying a close-range strike just over McGregor's crossbar after Rangers failed to deal with Toama's corner from the left.
It was from a good Hapoel spell that the home side re-claimed the lead with less than a quarter of an hour remaining, as the Isrealis took advantage of some slack Rangers defending.
Barda took a forward pass in the Rangers box before sliding a ball into the path of Dego, who himself slid home his finish with ease for 2-1.
Smith will have been disappointed with Rangers marking for the second goal, but they kept pressing for an equaliser.
Substitute Adam forced Hapoel goalkeeper Shavit Elimelech into tipping his long free-kick forward over his crossbar before Karl Svensson headed Gavin Rae's wide of the target.
In the end, the Israelis held on for a slender one-goal win to take to the second leg at Ibrox next week, but Rangers will feel confident of winning the tie back in Glasgow.
|Hapoel Tel-Aviv||Team Statistics||Rangers|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||2|
|9||Shots off Target||4|