Euro qualifiers: Sahar, Israel overpower Estonia

Israel fans got a peek at the promising future of the national team on Wednesday night.

isarel estonia win 298.8 (photo credit: AP)
isarel estonia win 298.8
(photo credit: AP)
Israel fans got a peek at the promising future of the national team on Wednesday night. Seventeen-year-old substitute Ben Sahar scored twice in three second-half minutes to help Israel to a 4-0 victory over Estonia at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan, giving the hosts their first win in four Euro 2008 qualifiers. Israel's campaign may not result in an historic qualification to the European championships. But its prospects in future competitions are looking a whole lot better after watching the talented Sahar score almost at will Wednesday night. Sahar became Israel's youngest ever international less than two months ago in a friendly match against Ukraine. He is gifted both physically and technically, and at his current rate of improvement is on the way to becoming a world-.class striker. "Despite my young age, I showed what I'm capable of," Sahar said. "I don't want people to speak just about me. The most important thing is that I continue with this form in the next match." Idan Tal opened the scoring for the hosts in the 20th minute with an accurate shot from outside the box. Israel doubled its lead thanks to Roberto Colautti's header 11 minutes later. The side was content to defend during the second half. But Sahar, who came on as a substitute in the 64th minute, only needed 13 minutes on field to score his first goal and three more minutes to net his second. "The team began the match very well," coach Dror Kashtan said. "All the players were extremely eager right from the kickoff and we played well. The Estonians grabbed the initiative in the second half, but we still scored two more goals. "The most important thing is that we got the three points that keep our [Euro 2008] campaign alive." The victory against Estonia takes Israel's point tally to 11 halfway through its Euro 2008 campaign, and gives Kashtan a couple of months without criticism before his side returns to action against Macedonia on June 2. Two of the national team's most important players will miss the trip to the Balkans. Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben-Haim picked up yellow cards Wednesday night. Israel pushed for a goal right from the kickoff and almost scored with the match not even two minutes old. Benayoun's pass found Toto Tamuz three meters from Mart Poom's goal. But the Betar Jerusalem forward headed the ball poorly and the Estonian 'keeper collected it comfortably. Four minutes later the hosts almost found the back of the net with the help of the Estonian defense. Walid Badier's shot from 20 meters took a wicked deflection and went just wide of the goal. Estonia barely broke out of their own half at the start of the match. Israel's dominance was finally translated to goals after 20 minutes. A poor clearance by the Estonian defense fell to the feet of Tal who fired the ball into the left corner of the net from just outside the box. In the 23rd minute Benayoun's glancing header went just wide of the goal. A minute later another header, this time by Colautti, was saved by the 'keeper. In the 31st minute Colautti connected perfectly with Amit Ben-Shushan's cross and headed the ball into the corner of the net. Israel had an excellent chance to score its third goal in the 61st minute when Tamuz's shot from five meters was just tipped away by Poom. Estonia twice came close to scoring in the second half. Their best chance was in the 72nd minute when Tarmo Kink's header was saved Dudu Awat. In the 77th minute, Sahar scored his first international goal in his third appearance for the national team, beating Poom to Tal's cross and lobbing the ball in. Three minutes later Sahar wrapped up Israel's victory when he scored his second, and Israel's fourth, with an excellent shot from 20 meters out that gave Poom no chance.