Israel dramatically denied in opener by Norway

Stoppage-time goal gives 10-man Norway a deserved 2-2 draw in Netanya.

June 5, 2013 23:58
3 minute read.
Israel and Nir Biton

U21 Israel soccer player sad 370. (photo credit: Uzi Gal)

Israel’s Under-21 national team had luck and the referee on its side on Wednesday night, but could still only manage a 2-2 draw in the European Championship opener against 10-man Norway after conceding a stoppagetime equalizer in Netanya.

Guy Luzon’s young men froze on the big stage, but despite being outplayed by Norway still found themselves in a winning position after taking a 2-1 lead thanks to Alon Turgeman’s goal in the 71st minute.

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However, Harmeet Singh ensured the blue-and-white didn’t claim a victory it didn’t deserve with an accurate leftfooted shot from the edge of the area in the 91st minute.

Israel first took the lead in the 16th minute through Nir Biton’s penalty after Polish referee Pawel Gil inexplicably awarded the hosts a spot kick for what he determined was a foul by Omar Elabdellaoui on Omri Ben- Harush.

It took the Scandinavians eight minutes to level the score, with Marcus Pedersen shaking defender Edi Gotlib and firing past ‘keeper Boris Kleyman.

Norway came tantalizingly close to completing its comeback shortly after, twice being denied only by the woodwork within just three minutes. However, Israel was in the driving seat at the break after another questionable call by referee Gil.

The Pole sent off Vegar Hedenstad one minute from halftime after concluding that the Norwegian defender was the last man on defense when he pulled at Mohammad Kalibat’s shirt 30 meters from goal.

The visitors still reached the better chances at the start of the second half, with Anders Konradssen’s deflected shot hitting the post after two minutes and Pedersen firing straight at Kleyman with only the goalkeeper to beat 12 minutes later.

Nevertheless, it was Israel which went in front yet again after Turgeman made the most of a defensive lapse, only for Singh to deny the locals the victory in a manner which has become so typically Israeli in recent times.

“If I’m to be honest I’m really not pleased with the way we played and that would have still been true had we won,” said coach Luzon. “I’m still pleased with the draw, but disappointed with the performance. This was our worst game in two years. We can’t play any worse than this. I’m certain we will play better against Italy.”

Israel faces Italy at Bloomfield Stadium in its second match in Group A on Saturday.

Italy defeated England 1-0 at Bloomfield stadium on Wednesday. Lorenzo Insigne scored Italy’s winner in the 79th minute with an accurate free kick.

England will look to rebound against Norway on Saturday.

“Italy is an amazing team and if there’s one encouraging aspect we can take from tonight it is the fact that we took an historic point despite our display,” Luzon said.

In its only previous appearance in the European Under-21 Championship six years ago, Israel lost all three of its group games and failed to score a goal.

At least the blue-and-white ensured there would be no repeat of that embarrassment this time around and captain Nir Biton is certain that the team will register a significant improvement on Saturday.

”This was one of our worst games and we recorded a draw which feels like a loss,” said the Ashdod SC midfielder.

“It is a shame we didn’t manage to score again during our better minutes but we aren’t going to cry over spilled milk. We are slightly down now, but we will quickly look forward to the match against Italy and will be determined to give a better impression of ourselves on Saturday.”

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