Israel claims second win in four days to build confidence ahead of Portugal.
By ALLON SINAI
Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben-Basat continued their prolific partnership for Israel on Tuesday night, scoring all three of the national team’s goals in its 3-0 victory over Luxembourg at National Stadium in Ramat Gan in 2014 World Cup qualification.After picking up just a single point from its first two qualifiers, drawing 1-1 at Azerbaijan and losing 4-0 at home to Russia, Israel got its campaign back on track by outscoring Luxembourg 9-0 in two matches over four days.The blue-and-white thoroughly dominated Luxembourg on Tuesday, with Hemed taking his tally since Friday to five goals, scoring twice in Ramat Gan (13, 48) after netting a hat-trick in Luxembourg. Ben-Basat also found the back of the net (35) for a second straight match. However, with all due respect to Luxembourg, Israel’s real test will only arrive when it hosts Portugal on March 22 in its next qualifier.“The matches against Luxembourg give us a foundation to build on,” said Israel coach Eli Gutman. “It would be wrong to talk about the Portugal match now as it is still so far away, but the last two wins make me feel that we are moving in the right direction.”Gutman was pleased with his squad’s showing on Tuesday.“We knew that the match would be very different to the one in Luxembourg and that we would have to move the ball patiently until we would find gaps,” Gutman said. “I was surprised by our performance in the first two qualifiers. When I went home after those matches I told myself that this is not an Eli Gutman team. I know exactly what we need to do next.”Israel was in complete control from the first kick in Ramat Gan and it didn’t take long to net the breakthrough.AdvertisementLuxembourg ‘keeper Jonathan Joubert was well placed to deny Hemed in the sixth minute, but he could do nothing seven minutes later when the Israel striker controlled Bibras Natcho’s through ball with one touch before firing into the back of the net with his left foot.Hemed almost scored his second of the night with a back-heel five minutes later, but Israel had to wait until the 35th minute until finally doubling its advantage, with Natcho once more the provider and Ben- Basat scoring with an exquisite chip.Luxembourg barely broke out of its own half in the entire first half and the blue-and-white secured the three points beyond any doubt three minutes after the break, with Hemed at the end of an Elad Gabai cross.Content with a 3-0 lead, Israel lowered the tempo, and Dekel Keinan ensured the blue-and-white also ended the game with a clean sheet by clearing Tom Laterza’s shot from the goal-line in stoppage time.“I’m happy that I could bring my good form for RCD Mallorca to the national team,” said Hemed, who has already scored five La ºLiga goals for his club. “We will prepare for Portugal and we will put up a respectable performance.”
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