Israel's Blue-and-white team hopes take a hit vs Czechs

Ruttensteiner’s troops suffer 1-0 Nations League defeat • Final group game vs Scotland on tap

 EYAL GOLASA (22) and the Israel National Team were tripped up by Ales Mateju (left) and the Czech Republic on Sunday night, with the blue-and-white falling to a 1-0 away loss that puts its goal of staying in League B of the Nations League in peril.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
EYAL GOLASA (22) and the Israel National Team were tripped up by Ales Mateju (left) and the Czech Republic on Sunday night, with the blue-and-white falling to a 1-0 away loss that puts its goal of staying in League B of the Nations League in peril.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 Israel fell 1-0 to the Czech Republic late Sunday night in Nations League B action in Plzen as Vladimir Darida scored an early goal that held up over the 90 minutes to give the hosts the three points.
Willi Ruttensteiner’s team opened up the contest under pressure, but improved its play as the game went on. However, the blue-and-white’s best chance, by Eran Zahavi in the 86th minute, was just parried away by the Czech ’keeper Tomas Vaclik to keep the lead intact as Jaroslav Silhavy’s squad took the victory.
The blue-and-white remains in third place of Group 2 with five points, just one point ahead of Slovakia, which defeated Scotland 1-0, while the Tartan Army leads the group with 10 points and the Czech Republic has nine points.
Israel will now need some favorable results in their final group game against Scotland in Israel on Wednesday night in order to stay in the B League.
“I believe that we played against a very tough national team that was very strong in the first half,” explained Ruttensteiner. “I am content that the players gave their maximum. We didn’t press them high enough and they played well. I told the players at halftime that we were having problems creating and when we lose balls when we build the attic it’s very dangerous.
“Over the past few games we have had the same types of problems. We aren’t in the first half and then I have to make substitutes and change players, which worked well this time as we played well in the second half. I am trying to get to the point where we are playing well at the start of the game, but this also happened when we played the Czech Republic at home. It’s hard to say if this is a mental issue but we will analyze the game and prepare for Scotland.”
Zahavi also reflected on the game in the same vein.
“I am disappointed with the first half, but the second half we played really well with a number of chances. We weren’t aggressive in the first half and we didn’t come out of the gate well. We gave up an easy goal and then it’s tough to come back in that situation against a quality side like the Czech Republic.”
Ruttensteiner had a full complement of players for the contest, with the exception of Hoffenheim striker Monas Dabbur, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 ahead of the canceled Norway match that was supposed to take place last week.
Ofir Marciano started in goal after a couple of shaky appearances last month with a back-line of Eli Dasa, Nir Bitton, Hatem El Hamed, Eitan Tibi, Taleb Tawhatha. Manning the midfield was Dor Peretz, Eyal Golasa, Manor Solomon and captain Bibras Natcho with Zahavi serving as the lone striker.
Zahavi had the opening chance for Israel from 25 meters in the opening stages, but in the seventh minute Darida beat Marciano as he stabbed home a low cross by Vladimir Coufal to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead.
Israel allowed way too many passes in its own area as Coufal and Zdenek Ondrasek were given room to operate to and turn the blue-and-white defenders inside out before Darida slotted the ball into the wide-open net.
Midfielder Jakub Jankto had a pair of chances, in the 28th and 31st minutes, but both times his attempt just missed the target while Tomas Kalas’s sharp header off a corner went directly to Marciano who made the stop. Tomas Soucek’s 41st-minute opportunity was blocked by Peretz  as the first half ended with the Czech Republic ahead 1-0.
Ruttensteiner made a pair of substitutions to begin the second half as Neta Lavi and Sun Menachem came on in place of Natcho and Tawhatha as Israel looked to freshen up the offense.
Zahavi’s half-chance was blocked by the Czech defense in the 53rd minute while Israel had four quick corners that it couldn’t capitalize on as the hosts weathered the storm.
Michael Krmencik had a chance at the other end, but Tibi took care of the attempt as Israel made its third substitute, bringing on Shon Weissman for Peretz in the 72nd minute.
El Hamed was sent off in the 81st minute, earning a red card from the referee as Israel feverishly looked for the equalizer.
Muhamed Abu Fani entered the fray for Golasa in the 86th minute as Zahavi had a brilliant chance to draw the visitors even, but Vaclik made a fantastic save as the Sevilla ’keeper dove to his left to just tap the ball away from going into his goal.
Zahavi once again had a chance, but his attempt went wide of the goal as the blue-and-white kept trying to find the elusive tying strike as time wound down for Ruttensteiner’s squad in the narrow away defeat.