Belgium players celebrate with Marouane Fellaini after he scored his team’s winner in last night’s victory over Israel at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel squandered a golden opportunity to kick-start its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign on Tuesday night, suffering a 1-0 defeat to Belgium at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem despite playing with an extra man for the final 30 minutes of the match.
After being outplayed in a 3-0 defeat to Wales in Haifa on Saturday, Israel was outclassed by Belgium in the first half, with Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini giving the visitors the lead in the ninth minute. Israel’s leaky defense conceded yet another unnecessary goal, failing to clear a set piece and allowing Fellaini to tuck the ball in from close range, with goalkeeper Ofir Martziano’s save falling right at his feet.
Israel got the second half off to a better start and received a welcome boost in the 64th minute with the sending off of Vincent Kompany.
The hosts pushed forward in search of an equalizer and Eran Zahavi in particular threatened Belgium’s goal. However, Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied the blue-and-white time and again to secure Belgium the win and leave Israel’s qualification hopes in a precarious position.
The blue-and-white still sits in third place in Group B with nine points after beating Cyprus, Andorra and Bosnia and Herzegovina in its first three qualifiers. Israel trails both Belgium and Wales by only two points at the midway point of the campaign, but still faces road matches against the group’s leading sides Belgium, Wales and Bosnia.
The blue-and-white will in all likelihood need to pick up some points from those matches to finish in the top three, with home wins over Cyprus and Andorra in its two other remaining games unlikely to prove sufficient.
Eli Gutman’s team will have to significantly improve on its performance against Wales and versus Belgium in the first half to have any chance of avoiding defeats away from home. However, at least Gutman can draw some encouragement from Tuesday’s second half.
The top two in each group qualify automatically along with the best third-place finisher, while the remaining eight thirdplace teams go into a playoff for four more berths.