(photo credit: Associated Press)
Three tallies from Yossi Benayoun ensured Israel began its Euro 2012 campaign on
the right foot on Thursday night, with the national team claiming a 3-1 victory
over Malta at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
Benayoun gave Israel the
lead in the seventh minute, but Malta scored a stunning equalizer seven minutes
from the break, and with the hosts playing so poorly, a disappointing draw
didn’t seem out of the question.
However, Benayoun came to new coach Luis
Fernandez’s rescue in his first official match in charge, scoring from
penalty spot in the 64th minute and securing the victory with a header
Despite the victory, Thursday’s display should certainly
worry Fernandez ahead of next week’s match in Georgia, with Israel
a win in Tbilisi in its chase of a top-two finish in Group F, which also
includes Croatia, Greece and Latvia.
Israel thought it got off to a
flying start on Thursday, but Benayoun’s goal 81 seconds into the match
disallowed after the referee saw the Chelsea midfielder control the ball
However, the blue-and-white didn’t have to wait long to take
the lead, with the captain scoring the opener after just seven
Lior Rafaelov spotted the midfield magician on the edge of the
box and Benayoun found the back of the net for the 21st time in his
After taking the early lead, the hosts made the
mistake of sitting back, and Israel only rarely threatened Andrew Hogg’s
Benayoun came close in the 18th minute after clearing a couple of
tackles and Ben-Dayan and Rafaelov also had their chances. But
were far too content with their slender one goal-advantage and they paid
price in the 38th minute.
Jamie Pace was given too much space in the box
and he headed in the equalizer, Malta’s first goal in an official match
November 2007, to the astonishment of the 17,365 fans on hand.
a minute later, Almog Cohen rattled the Malta crossbar with a long-range
but that was all the hosts could muster as an immediate reply to
shock goal and the half ended tied at 1-1.
Gili Vermut, who was
surprisingly left on the bench, came on as a substitute six minutes
interval, but his introduction did little to change the proceedings on
pitch. Israel was still dominating the possession, but struggled to
However, Fernandez’s team finally got the opportunity
it was so desperate for in the 64th minute when Almog Cohen was bundled
the box, leaving referee Said Ennjimi with no option but to point to the
Benayoun stepped up to convert the penalty and Israel was in the
lead once more.
This time, the blue-and-white wouldn’t make the same
mistake they did in the first half and would clinch the victory 11
Vermut’s shot was poorly saved by Hogg and Benayoun was first to
the rebound to complete the win, heading in his 23rd international goal,
him to third place all-time for Israel, tied with Ronen Harazi.