Israel National Team's Eden Ben-Basat 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel bounced back from the heartbreaking draw against Portugal with a 2- 0
victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast on Tuesday night, remaining in second
place in Group F of 2014 World Cup qualification.
dominated the encounter played in freezing conditions in Windsor Park, but
Israel still claimed three points it scarcely deserved thanks to excellent
finishes by Lior Rafaelov (77) and Eden Ben-Basat (84).
The win keeps
Israel ahead of Portugal on goal difference, with the Portuguese beating
Azerbaijan 2-0 in Baku on Tuesday.
“I’m proud to be the Israel coach,”
said Israel coach Eli Gutman. “The players picked up four points in two matches
and very nearly took six. The squad showed its character and they deserve all
the credit. The conditions were very difficult but we came through.”
dejecting draw against Portugal didn’t seem to affect Israel at the start of the
match, with Itay Shechter, who started in place of the suspended Tomer Hemed,
coming centimeters away from breaking the deadlock after less than four minutes,
hitting the post from close range following a swift team move.
the hosts soon seized control, dominating the midfield and denying Israel any
After his mistake in Ramat Gan on Friday gifted
Portugal its 93rd-mintue equalizer, Dudu Aouate redeemed himself slightly with a
superb reflex save in the 31st minute.
Steven Davis had only the ‘keeper
to beat from less than five meters out, but he fired straight at Aouate and
Yuval Shpungin cleared Shane Ferguson’s rebound off the line.
created little else in the remainder of the first half, but they remained in
complete control after the break.
Maor Melikson squandered a promising
chance to net the opener eight minutes into the second half, but Israel very
rarely ventured forward, allowing the Northern Irish to dictate
Nevertheless, the hosts created little against Israel’s dense
defense and the national team struck twice on the break to clinch all three
Seven minutes after coming on as a substitute, Rafaelov was
perfectly placed to pick up a ball flicked on by Shechter and he broke the
deadlock with a clinical finish with his left foot.
Seven minutes later,
Shechter did all the hard work down the right flank and squared the ball for the
incoming Ben- Basat who scored for the fourth straight qualifier to ensure
Israel claimed a confidence- boosting win on the road.
under-pressure Portugal shrugged off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo by
securing a 2-0 victory over 10-man Azerbaijan thanks to goals from Bruno Alves
and Hugo Almeida.
The win meant Portugal, who has not missed a major
tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France, moved onto 11 points from six
The result also put an end to a fivegame winless streak which
Portugal had failed to break last Friday when they stumbled to 3-3 draw in
Ronaldo, watching in the stands because of a suspension picked up
in Tel Aviv, saw Azerbaijan’s defensive heroics fall apart after forward Rauf
Aliyev was sent off for a second yellow card early into the second
Portugal took advantage soon after when Bruno Alves, who scored the
opener in Israel, sprinted towards a Joao Moutinho corner and towered above the
Azeri defence to head in after 63 minutes.
Substitute Hugo Almeida then
finished off Azerbaijan with an easy header in the box from a Fabio Coentrao
cross with 10 minutes to go.
Russia top the group in the automatic
qualification spot with 12 points from four matches.Reuters contributed
to this report.