Euro 2007: Israel's Under-21s fall to Belgium

National team can no longer qualify for semis after losing 1-0.

ben sahar 298.88 ap (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
ben sahar 298.88 ap
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
An 82nd minute goal by striker Kevin Mirallas gave 10-men Belgium a 1-0 victory over Israel at the European Under-21 Championship on Wednesday night. Despite playing against 10 men for 73 minutes, Israel failed to break down the Belgians defense at the Abe Lenstra Stadium in Heerenveen. The side struggled to create scoring opportunities and fell to its second straight 1-0 defeat. The national team, which has only scored one goal in seven matches since it qualified for the tourney in October, dictated the play for most of the match. Its lack of a killer instinct, however, ended any hope it had of advancing to the semifinals. "This is a very disappointing result," Israel coach Guy Levy said after the match. "We're frustrated by the final score, but not with the way it was achieved. My way got us to the tournament and I'm proud of it. All we were missing was a little luck." Israel will now set it sights on defeating Portugal in its final Group A match on Saturday, with the hope of finishing third in the group and playing an Olympic playoff match. Should England finish in the top two spots in Group B, there will be a playoff between the third placed sides in each group, with the winner getting a place at the Beijing Olympics. Belgium got off to a quick start Wednesday, almost taking the lead in after nine minutes when Kevin Mirallas released an excellent shot from the edge of the area, but Tom Almadon tipped the ball over the crossbar with an acrobatic save. Less than a minute later, Mirallas got away from the Israeli defense once again, but he failed to control S bastien Pocognoli's cross and Almadon easily cleared the danger. Israel struggled to create scoring chances and only worked its way into the match thanks to a huge favor from its opponent. In the 17th minute, defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini received a controversial second yellow card and was sent off after fouling Eliran Danin. The one-man advantage gave the national team a much needed lift and Israel almost took the lead from Idan Srur's ensuing free kick, which was only just saved by Belgian keeper Logan Bailly. Israel continued to push forward and Barak Itzhaki's shot came within centimeters of putting the side in front. The Betar Jerusalem forward hit a powerful shot that went tantalizingly close to the Belgians' goal. In first half stoppage time, Ben Sahar had the blue-and-whites' best chance of the half. The Chelsea striker exchanged passes with Srur, but defender Nicolas Lombaerts kept Sahar's shot out of the net with a last ditch tackle. Israel seized the initiative right from the start of the second half, with Srur's left-footed shot in the 47th minute almost getting the better of the Belgian goalie. Three minutes later, Sahar created yet another chance, but his right-footed shot went just wide of the right post. In the 53rd minute, Belgium hit Israel on the break, with Mirallas only being denied by a desperate Amir Taga tackle. Sahar was Israel's most dangerous player on Wednesday, but even his superb break in the 60th minute couldn't give his side the lead after the Belgian defense stood strong once more. The national team failed to convert its one-man advantage into scoring opportunities and paid the price in the final 10 minutes of the match. In the 80th minute, Mirallas hit the post with a left-footed shot, but two minutes later the speedy striker could no longer be denied. The Lille player raced past Israel captain Dekel Keinan and coolly slotted the ball past a helpless Almadon to give his side the victory.