Damari’s brace boosts Israel over Iceland at Bloomfield

National team dominates in first half but nearly gives away win in friendly match as level drops after break.

Damari National Team 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Damari National Team 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Maccabi Petah Tikva striker Omer Damari experienced a dream international debut on Wednesday night, scoring twice in Israel’s 3-2 victory over Iceland in a friendly match at Bloomfield Stadium.
Israel opened a 3-0 lead after just 27 minutes thanks to Damari’s pair and a Lior Rafaelov strike.
However, in the second half, Luis Fernandez’s team completely lost its way against a side which was defeated in all three of its Euro 2012 qualifiers to date, conceding two late goals and only just holding on for a victory against the Scandinavian minnows.
“We played well in the first half, but our level dropped off slightly after the break,” said Fernandez, whose team doesn’t renew its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign until the end of March when it hosts Latvia and Georgia.
“Overall, we did quite well and the most important thing is that we won.”
Fernandez sent his players to pressure the Iceland defenders from the start and his instructions bore fruit almost immediately.
Maor Buzaglo stole the ball in the center of the field and sent it through to Damari, who coolly found the back of the net less than five minutes into his Israel debut.
The visitors came centimeters from equalizing less than two minutes later when Steinthor Thorsteinsson’s shot hit Dudu Aouate’s crossbar, but Israel’s dominance was never really in question and the hosts soon increased their lead.
In the 14th minute, Damari stole the ball from Portsmouth defender Hermann Hreidarsson and placed it in the bottom right corner of the net with what is becoming his typical nonchalant style.
Maccabi Haifa’s Rafaelov secured the win in the 27th minute when Elyaniv Barda left him with the simple task of tucking the ball into an empty net after some good build-up play.
Israel could have extended its lead further before the break, but it lacked a cutting edge and was more than happy to settle for its comfortable cushion.
The national team allowed the Icelanders to seize control in the second half and the visitors weren’t that far from forcing a draw after Alfred Finnbogason (79) and Kolbeinn Sigfiórsson (85) scored well-deserved consolation goals.

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