Israel coach Eli Gutman was given plenty of food for thought on Wednesday after
the national team dropped to a 2-1 defeat to Belarus in a friendly encounter at
Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
Israel moved up to second place in 2014 World
Cup qualifying Group F with two victories over the weak Luxembourg last month,
winning 6-0 on the road and 3-0 at home.
However, its performance on
Wednesday was far more reminiscent of its play in the 4-0 thrashing at the hands
of Russia in September, with the blue-and-white looking extremely lethargic
against a mediocre opponent. At least Israel doesn’t play its next qualifier
against Portugal until March 22, giving Gutman plenty of time to mull over
After a slow start to the match, Israel scored the
breakthrough out of nowhere.
Tomer Hemed stole the ball from Egor
Filipenko on the edge of the area and Omer Damari made the most of the
opportunity and fired Israel into the lead with a clinical
However, instead of growing in confidence and pushing forward for
a second goal, Israel sat back and was punished in first half stoppage
Eitan Tibi’s poor clearance fell perfectly for Syarhey Kislyak, who
found the bottom left corner with a powerful effort from outside the
Belarus completed its comeback within the first minute of the second
half, with the visitors stealing the ball in Israel’s half and Syarhey
Balanovich releasing an unstoppable effort from 25 meters out.
failed to muster any sort of response and was fortunate not to lose by a greater
Russia, which leads Israel’s qualifying group, was held to a 2-2
draw by the United States on Wednesday, with Mix Diskerud scoring deep into
stoppage time for the US in the first match between the two former Cold War
adversaries since 2000.
Debutant Fyodor Smolov put the home team 1-0 up
in the ninth minute of the friendly before Michael Bradley’s spectacular volley
in the 76th minute rewarded an improved second-half display by the Americans in
the southern city of Krasnodar.
Roman Shirokov restored Russia’s
advantage with an 84th-minute penalty and it seemed they would extend their
winning streak to five games under Italian coach Fabio Capello.
substitute Diskerud’s low shot then took a lucky bounce and fooled keeper
Vladimir Gabulov four minutes into stoppage time.
Despite the setback,
the Russians, who have won all four of their World Cup qualifiers, stretched
their unbeaten run under Capello to six games.
"I’m really pleased with
what we showed today,” said the former England manager.
"I’ve managed to
see a lot of new young players tonight and now I could use them in competitive
Reuters contributed to this report.
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