Israel advanced to the final of the Third Valery Lubanovsky Tournament in Kiev, Ukraine, on Monday after an unconvincing victory over the host nation. After a goalless 90 minutes of regulation, Israel defeated Ukraine 5-3 in a penalty shootout.
Israel will face Poland, 3-2 winners over Serbia-Montenegro in an earlier match, in the tournament final on Thursday.
Youngsters such as Andriy Shevchenko, Sergei Rebrov and Oleg Luzhny played in the Kiev stadium under coach Lovanovsky before bursting into the spotlight and playing in AC Milan, Tottenham and Arsenal, respectively.
The match was played without both teams? leading players. Israeli superstar Yossi Benayoun, who had an outstanding debut with his new club, West Ham United, on Saturday, stayed in England because he was not fit for the match. An ill Avi Nimni also did not make the trip.
Ukrainian captain and the team?s most important player, Andriy Shevchenko was missing as well, after he played for AC Milan on Sunday.
Ukraine started the match in an attacking formation and wasted no time by pressing and coming forward, while the Israelis were busy containing and settled for a few counterattacks that came to their end carelessly by Yaniv Katan, who continued his poor run of form so far this season.
The Israeli defense performed just well enough to hold off the Ukrainian attacks.
Bolton sweeper Tal Ben-Haim, who played a full 90 minutes in an English Premier League match on Saturday and is flying back to England on Tuesday, showed no signs of fatigue and was rock solid. Ben-Haim will not be available on Thursday.
Goalkeeper Nir Davidovic made some impressive saves, showing an improvement from his miserable performance with Maccabi Haifa in Champions League qualifying.
Idan Tal and Walid Badier were unable to develop any attacks and were paralyzed by their opponents. Newcomer David Revivo, young brother of the great Haim Revivo, barely made his presence known and might have been unable to adapt to the international level.
The very tactical first half ended 0-0, with very few opportunities in front of goal. Ukraine enjoyed most of the ball possession, but failed to score and utilize their advantage.
The second half began in the same manner the first half ended. Salim Tuamah made his debut, entering the game in the 55th minute, and influenced the flow of the match. Israel started pushing ahead and the game opened up a little.
This being a friendly fixture, more than three substitutions were allowed. The unusual number of changes in the lineups caused confusion and the teams were not able to develop attacks and 90 minutes of regulation ended a disappointing 0-0, with little action in the penalty areas.
A place in Thursday?s final had to be filled, so the teams lined up for a penalty shootout. After a missed Ukrainian spot kick, the Israeli players kept their nerves and Adoram Keisi knocked in the decisive penalty to give the team a 5-3 win in the shootout.
Alon Harazi and Arik Benado made their 84th appearances for the national team, one short of Amir Shelah?s Israeli record.