russia israel 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Dror Kashtan is still unbeaten as coach of the national soccer team after the squad produced a solid performance and secured an important 1-1 draw against Russia in a Euro 2008 qualifying Group E match in Moscow Saturday night.
The blue-and-white have seven points from three matches and their Euro 2008 dream is still alive and kicking. England, which was held to a goalless draw by Macedonia at Old Trafford in Manchester, also has seven points from three matches, and sits in first place only on goal-differential.
The Israeli camp received good news hours before the match, when star midfielder Yossi Benayoun passed a fitness test and was declared match-fit.
Kashtan immediately named the West Ham United player to his starting 11, which eventually helped the team earn the valuable point.
"It's a very good result," Benayoun told reporters after the match.
"This draw has given us good momentum ahead of our home match against Croatia [in November]. I am happy with our youngsters' contributions and hope they keep improving in the coming games."
"I was very weak today, but I didn't want to miss this important game. All I want to do now is to take a few weeks' rest, as this injury has significantly affected my performance. It's safe to assume I'll now sit out the next few weeks until I regain my fitness."
"I don't think we played a poor game," Kashtan commented on his team's performance. "Our first half was not impressive, but we improved in the second half and controlled the tempo of the game.
"Russia enjoys a great home-field advantage at this stadium and our achievement today must not be overlooked."
Gus Hiddink's Russia opened the match with an attacking formation and employed a very physical game plan, which led to continuous attacks on Dudu Awat's goal. The visitors' defense was soon caught off-guard, giving up a goal in the fifth minute.
Betar Jerusalem's Gal Alberman lost possession in midfield and the ball headed toward the Israeli goal. Russian forward Andrey Arshavin used his speed to beat Shimon Gershon, took the ball in stride and provided an accurate finish to give the hosts the early lead.
Kashtan decided to make two substitutions at halftime and both replacements play for Betar Jerusalem. Forward Amit Ben-Shushan replaced Klemi Saban, while defender Tomer Ben-Yosef came on for Gershon.
The bold, attacking tactical moves paid off. Israel gained the advantage in ball possession, with the midfielders effectively spreading out the play to the flanks.
Russia switched to a defensive formation and settled for counterattacks, which were scarce due to the visitors' clever marking.
The last replacement for the Israelis was Toto Tamuz, another Betar Jerusalem star, who replaced the hurting Benayoun. The move bolstered the team's offense and led to the all-important equalizer minutes after the substitution.
Tamuz performed a brilliant solo dribble from the left flank and spinned by his marker before firing a curling shot on goal.
Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev fisted the ball away, but the unmarked Ben-Shushan tapped in the rebound to level the score in the 85th minute.
Israel next plays Croatia on November 15 at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
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