Early goal doesn’t stand up for blue-and-white

Israel loses friendly 2-1 against Belarus at Teddy despite Damari score.

ISRAEL COACH Eli Gutman 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
ISRAEL COACH Eli Gutman 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Israel coach Eli Gutman was given plenty of food for thought on Wednesday after the national team dropped to a 2-1 defeat to Belarus in a friendly encounter at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
Israel moved up to second place in 2014 World Cup qualifying Group F with two victories over the weak Luxembourg last month, winning 6-0 on the road and 3-0 at home.
However, its performance on Wednesday was far more reminiscent of its play in the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Russia in September, with the blue-and-white looking extremely lethargic against a mediocre opponent. At least Israel doesn’t play its next qualifier against Portugal until March 22, giving Gutman plenty of time to mull over Wednesday’s display.
After a slow start to the match, Israel scored the breakthrough out of nowhere.
Tomer Hemed stole the ball from Egor Filipenko on the edge of the area and Omer Damari made the most of the opportunity and fired Israel into the lead with a clinical finish.
However, instead of growing in confidence and pushing forward for a second goal, Israel sat back and was punished in first half stoppage time.
Eitan Tibi’s poor clearance fell perfectly for Syarhey Kislyak, who found the bottom left corner with a powerful effort from outside the box.
Belarus completed its comeback within the first minute of the second half, with the visitors stealing the ball in Israel’s half and Syarhey Balanovich releasing an unstoppable effort from 25 meters out.
Israel failed to muster any sort of response and was fortunate not to lose by a greater margin.
Russia, which leads Israel’s qualifying group, was held to a 2-2 draw by the United States on Wednesday, with Mix Diskerud scoring deep into stoppage time for the US in the first match between the two former Cold War adversaries since 2000.
Debutant Fyodor Smolov put the home team 1-0 up in the ninth minute of the friendly before Michael Bradley’s spectacular volley in the 76th minute rewarded an improved second-half display by the Americans in the southern city of Krasnodar.
Roman Shirokov restored Russia’s advantage with an 84th-minute penalty and it seemed they would extend their winning streak to five games under Italian coach Fabio Capello.
However, substitute Diskerud’s low shot then took a lucky bounce and fooled keeper Vladimir Gabulov four minutes into stoppage time.
Despite the setback, the Russians, who have won all four of their World Cup qualifiers, stretched their unbeaten run under Capello to six games.
"I’m really pleased with what we showed today,” said the former England manager.
"I’ve managed to see a lot of new young players tonight and now I could use them in competitive matches.”
Reuters contributed to this report.