(photo credit: )
The Israel national team defeated a side of local foreigners 3-2 in Ashkelon on Tuesday evening in an exhibition match played as a show of support the children of Sderot and the Gaza periphery communities.
Two clinical finishes by Betar Jerusalem forward Barak Itzhaki gave Israel an early 2-0 lead, with Omer Golan scoring the teams' third in the 37th minute.
Betar's Brazilian striker Romulo scored for the foreigners in the 44th minute and Israel had a two goal lead at the interval.
Maccabi Tel Aviv's French midfielder Rudy Haddad brought the foreigners within a goal of Israel in the 71st minute.
But Idan Tal scored from the penalty spot 17 minutes later and the blue-and-white celebrated the victory to the joy of the 1,500 local supporters.
The national team, which will face Croatia in a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier next Saturday, was missing its foreign based players Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Tal Ben-Haim (Chelsea), Dudu Awat (Deportivo La Coruna), Roberto Colautti (Bourussia Monchengladbach) and Pini Balili (Sivasspor) and its squad members from Hapoel Tel Aviv, who flew out to Sweden on Tuesday.
"We came here to entertain the children and give them a fun day out," said Maccabi Haifa's Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Boccoli, who has been playing in Israel since 2001.
"I told the other foreigners what the match is about and they were more then happy to come and play for the children."
Head of Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council Alon Schuster said: "I see this match as a symbol of recognition from the state that a war has been going on in our region for the last seven years.
"The reality of our region is unbearable and this match makes us feel that the rest of the country is thinking of us."