The Israel national soccer team was still flying high on Sunday after recording its first win in Euro 2024 qualifying in dramatic fashion as Oscar Gloukh scored deep into second-half injury time to snatch a 2-1 victory over Belarus on Friday night in Budapest.
The blue-and-white fell behind early as the hosts grabbed a 1-0 lead via Max Ebong in the 16th minute, but a Shon Weissman penalty late in the second half, along with Gloukh’s strike straight from a corner, handed Alon Hazan’s squad the three points.
The win allowed Israel to stay in qualification contention after only having picked up a single point in its opening pair of games. The Israelis will have a chance to take another three points on Monday back in Jerusalem when they face Andorra.
Israel in third place, Switzerland at first
Israel now finds itself in third place in Group I with four points, as Switzerland remains in first place with nine points after slipping by Andorra 2-1 on the road, while Romania is in second place with seven points after having played to a goalless draw with Kosovo.
Following Monday’s match in the Holy Land, Israel will then play Romania and Belarus in September.
“Some people thought we would come into the game against Belarus and have an easy time against an opponent that isn’t considered to be a power,” Hazan began after the win. “But I knew full well that this was going to be a tough clash. We created enough chances, but I told the guys to have patience, which was the key. I’m happy with the character we showed and now we have to get ready for Andorra.”
Hazan also spoke about Gloukh, who did not feature in the starting lineup, but came on as a substitute and scored the winning goal.
“Oscar is a kid and we forget that sometimes. He did some incredible things and while he has played a number of years he is still very young and is just getting his feet wet in Austria. He has a ton of talent and while he lost some balls, he kept his confidence and kept his head up. He’s at the top level of the sport, but again he’s still just a kid.”
The Andorra game will be played in Jerusalem, however, the Israel Football Association has been dealing with threats that Beitar Jerusalem fans will try to cause issues as a protest at the National Team game due to penalties levied on the club after the pitch invasion from the Israel State Cup.
With that in mind, Hazan tried to explain why the upcoming game is critical and emphasized that the game Andorra would not be the correct time to launch a protest.
“We have heard what their plans are and I hope that Beitar Jerusalem fans understand the importance of the game for the State of Israel, not just for the National Team. Beitar fans may be upset at the IFA and the National Team is associated with them, but in reality it belongs to the country as a whole. If they damage the National Team that will cause damage to Israeli soccer and the entire State. I really hope that they understand that there are better ways to change things and ones that are also less violent.”
Back to the game against Belarus, both sides traded chances early on in the game, which was being played in Hungary due to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It was Belarus who broke the ice first when Ebong came into the box with a terrific individual effort as he laced the ball right behind Omri Glazer to take a 1-0 lead.
Liel Abada had an opportunity via a header off an Eli Dasa ball to draw even just ahead of halftime but his chance came up short and Muhamed Abu Fani’s rebound attempt also didn’t find the back of the goal as the squad squandered its opportunities ahead into the break.
Following a number of substitutes just as the second half began, chances were few until it looked as if Israel had drawn even on an own-goal, however, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled the strike was offside.
Following a rough foul on Gaby Kanichowsky in the box very late in regulation time, Israel was issued a penalty that Shon Weissman converted in the 85th minute while Gloukh’s corner kick found its way past the Belarus ’keeper in the 93rd minute as the blue-and-white snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat.
“This was a really tough loss for us,” Belarus head coach Georgy Kondratyev said. “We left everything on the pitch. We conceded on a penalty and a goal from a corner right at the end, so it’s really painful. I don’t believe Israel deserved the penalty. I can’t complain about the players’ efforts. We will battle for every point that is left and we can see how far we can go.”
The game’s hero, Gloukh, also reflected on the game.
“Scoring off a corner has never happened to me before and sometimes you need these types of goals in order to win the game. I had a ton of confidence coming into the game off the bench as we have players who can start or come on as a substitute. We want to do our utmost for the country. Every game in our group will be difficult and we will do our best to make it out of our group. I hope that we will be able to do just that.”