Blue-and-white breaks out in Luxembourg

“We saw a real team effort tonight,” said delighted Israeli coach Eli Gutman.

Tomer Hemed Team 370 (photo credit: Reuters )
Tomer Hemed Team 370
(photo credit: Reuters )
A very relieved coach and group of players arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport late Saturday night after the Israel national team kick-started its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 6-0 thrashing of Luxembourg the previous night.
A match against Luxembourg used to be a foregone conclusion, but the blueand- white entered its third qualifier in Group F in an anxious mood after picking up just one point from its first two games, drawing 1-1 at Azerbaijan before suffering a humiliating 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Russia.
Matters almost deteriorated further in the first minute of Friday’s match, with a well-timed lunge by Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aouate the only thing standing between Luxembourg’s Aurelien Joachim and the opener.
However, after surviving that early scare, Maharan Radi settled Israel’s nerves with a cool finish in the fourth minute following which the visitors dominated proceedings.
Maor Melikson recorded his second assist of the night in the 12th minute when he sliced the Luxembourg defense with a pass to scorer Eden Ben- Basat, with Tomer Hemed netting from close range 15 minutes later.
Melikson scored a deserved goal in the 60th minute, before in-form RCD Mallorca striker Hemed completed a hat-trick with two more goals (73, 91) to ensure Israel claimed its first win of the campaign in emphatic fashion.
“We saw a real team effort tonight,” said delighted Israel coach Eli Gutman.
“This match could not have ended any other way. We were so ready for this match that even had they scored in the first minute we would have won.
“I’m not very pleased with the minutes in which the players were static, but overall we saw tonight a team which knew what it was doing.”
Israel faces Luxembourg once more on Tuesday, this time at home, and will be aiming to claim another resounding victory ahead of its next real test, the home game against Portugal on March 22.
“The win over Luxembourg gives us the confidence and the belief that we can do the same again on Tuesday,” said Gutman. “Luxembourg will be much better prepared in Israel.”
Hemed has gotten this season off to a superb start and is currently ranked fourth overall in the La Liga top scorers table behind just Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao, netting five goals in Mallorca’s first seven matches.
He doubled his career tally for Israel with his three goals on Friday and was pleased with the team’s performance in Luxembourg.
“We shouldn’t take this win for granted,” Hemed said. “We were really ready and knew that there was no way back from this match.
“This is an historic and emotional moment for me,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for this since I was a child.”
Aouate captained the side following Gutman’s decision to drop Yossi Benayoun from the squad and he was optimistic that Friday’s win will prove to be the first of many in the current campaign.
“We were ready and controlled the match from the start,” said Aouate.
“We were also ready against Russia, but we didn’t implement what Gutman told us. I think matters will get better from here on. This is a big win, but we are keeping our feet on the ground.”