Blue-and-white visits Norway for friendly

Important international test for Israel ahead of Nation League duels vs Scotland, Czech Republic.

 ERAN ZAHAVI (left) and the Israel National Team have a busy week ahead of them, starting with tonight’s friendly at Norway and continuing with Nations League contests against the Czech Republic (on Sunday) Scotland (on November 18) (photo credit: REUTERS)
ERAN ZAHAVI (left) and the Israel National Team have a busy week ahead of them, starting with tonight’s friendly at Norway and continuing with Nations League contests against the Czech Republic (on Sunday) Scotland (on November 18)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel National Team is set to play Norway on Wednesday evening in a friendly matchup in Oslo ahead of two critical Nations League games next week, against the Czech Republic and Scotland.
Head coach Willi Ruttensteiner’s squad will see how it fares against one of Europe’s up-and-coming teams, which features budding superstar Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year-old English-born striker will test the blue-and-white with his deftness up front as he has already scored six goals in only seven national team appearances.
Israel would have liked to be playing Norway in the European Championship play-off final, but both teams lost in their semifinal clashes last month to Scotland and Serbia, respectively.
But nonetheless Ruttensteiner is content having the chance to prepare for a pair of games that will determine if Israel will remain in the Nations League B level.
“We did a good evaluation and analysis as to what is in front of us and we aren’t looking back to the past. If this would be a final it would have been amazing, but I’m very happy that we can play a strong opponent and to go up against strong strikers like Haaland so we can see what types of gaps we have ahead. We have three games in a short period of time and we must be prepared as our goal is to stay in the B group of the Nations League.”
Meanwhile, in Israel Premier League action, Maccabi Haifa defeated Ashdod SC 2-1 at Sammy Ofer Stadium after having drawn with Maccabi Tel Aviv last week.
Nikita Rukavytsya put the Greens on the board right before the break when he slotted home a 45th-minute penalty after a controversial foul by Moussa Bagayoko in the box on Sun Menachem.
In the 63rd minute, Tjaron Chery doubled Barak Bachar’s club’s advantage as his sharp shot was deflected off Nir Bardea and into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Sagiv Yehezkel headed home a Tom Ben Zaken ball to cut the lead and the visitors continued to press for the equalizer, but it wasn’t enough for Ran Ben Shimon’s team to steal a point.
“Our game plan was perfect,” said an upset Ben Shimon following the clash. “We wanted to play a defensive game, but we were able to create a number of chances. However, it’s a disgrace that after the referee watched the replay of the foul that he still allowed the spot kick to be taken. I’m proud of my players as they gave it their all.”
Bachar also reflected on the game after his team’s victory.
“We had a lot of luck at the end of the game as our ’keeper Omri Glazer came up with a couple of big saves. We were winning 2-0 and we couldn’t finish off the game. We gave up a goal and were just able to take the victory.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv fought by Bnei Sakhnin 2-1 to record its first league win of the season.
The yellow-and-blue’s new striker, Aleksandar Pesic, was pulled down in the box by Rami Hamada in the 34th minute which resulted in a Yonatan Cohen penalty-kick goal as Girogos Donis’s squad took a 1-0 lead.
Maccabi doubled the advantage when Pesic took a Dan Bitton pass and put it home in the 67th minute to go up 2-0.
Osama Khalaila pulled a goal back deep into second-half injury time via a penalty, but it wasn’t enough to deny the defending champion the three points and the victory.
“We were under pressure because we hadn’t won in four league games,” said a relieved Donis following the game. “The most important thing was to find balance on the field.
We controlled the pace of play for most of the game and we created chances which helped build up our confidence.”
Pesic, who scored and also drew a penalty, commented on the win.
“It always feels good to score, but I couldn’t do it without my teammates. Everyone gave the maximum in order to record the win and this will help us along the way.”
Elsewhere, Maccabi Netanya dropped Hapoel Haifa 2-1 as Raymond Atteveld’s squad scored a pair of second-half goals to take the points at the Netanya Stadium.
Hen Ezra put the hosts on the scoresheet first as he scored into the far corner while KeVaughn Frater added the second strike in the 81st minute. William Agada pulled a goal back deep into injury time, but it was too little, too late for Haim Silvas’s side.
“This was an opponent that was very tough which forced us to play faster,” said winning coach Raymond Atteveld. “We knew how to deal with the situation, but it took time until I made a number of substitutes.”
Haifa coach Haim Silvas spoke about the loss.
“This was a bad result and it’s just a continuation of bad results from the start of the season. We were able to create a few good chances, but we couldn’t capitalize on them.”
Bnei Yehuda slipped by Beitar Jerusalem 1-0 in a tight battle at Bloomfield Stadium. The lone goal of the game came in the 19th minute with Niv Zrihen scored thanks to a brilliant dribble from rising star Roie Ben Shimon as he swept by central defender Orel Dagani in the box to give Nir Berkovic’s squad all the points.
“We were missing a couple of defensive players, but I come into every game to win,” said a satisfied Berkovic. “The guys played tonight and put on a terrific defensive display and they deserve all the credit in the world.”
Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic looked back at the defeat.
“We knew it would be tough after having played three games this week. We had plenty of chances and we should have gotten a better result. We were dominant and played proper soccer, but we gave up a goal, we had 18 attempts on net and we should have scored.”
Hapoel Tel Aviv slipped by Hapoel Hadera 1-0 as Osher Davida scored the decisive goal off a Roie Zikri cross in the 59th minute to take the three points.
Hadera had gone a man down five minutes earlier when Dia Lababidi was issued his second yellow card, helping the Reds take advantage of the extra player.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona squeaked by Maccabi Petah Tikva 1-0 on an 89th-minute goal by Lucio to snatch the three points.
Also, Hapoel Beersheba and Hapoel Kfar Saba played to a scoreless draw at Teddy Stadium ahead of the international break.