International Soccer: Israel, Northern Ireland play to 1-1 draw
Humdrum friendly in Belfast provides few highlights after McCann and Barda trade first-half tallies.
By ALLON SINAI
Israel recorded an uninspiring 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast on Wednesday in its final warm-up match ahead of next month's 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
The national team, which held a three-day training camp in England over the weekend, was the better side throughout Wednesday's match at Windsor Park, but trailed 1-0 following Grant McCann's 18th minute goal and could do no more than equalize through Elyaniv Barda eight minutes later.
Israel will now turn its attention to its next two qualifiers against Latvia and Luxembourg, both to be played at National Stadium in Ramat Gan.
The team's hopes of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years suffered a crushing blow when it only managed to collect a single point from its last two qualifiers against Greece earlier this year.
However, Israel, which is currently fourth in Group 2 with nine points from six games - trailing Greece, Switzerland and Latvia - can at least keep alive its slender hopes of still advancing to South Africa with victories against Latvia (September 5) and Luxembourg (September 9).
Debutant Avihai Yadin registered Israel's first attempt at goal in Belfast on Wednesday, hitting a relatively harmless shot from long range in the sixth minute.
The hosts began the match slowly, but after 18 minutes took the lead.
McCann curled his free-kick from 20 meters out beyond 'keeper Dudu Aoute, with the Israeli netminder reaching the ball, but not managing to keep it out of the net.
Eight minutes later, Israel equalized in exquisite fashion.
Dror Kashtan's team broke forward quickly, with Aviram Bruchian ultimately passing the ball perfectly for Barda, who scored his fifth international goal in 15 career matches with an easy tap-in.
Both sides rarely threatened in the remainder of the first half, with Tamir Cohen coming closest to scoring, having his powerful header cleared off the line by Northern Ireland's Damien Johnson.
The dull first half was followed by a lackluster second half, with Israel only occasionally venturing forward with intent.
In the 69th minute, Bruchian, who played perhaps his best match for the national team on Wednesday, should have done better with his shot after a nice team, with substitute Salim Toama coming close eight minutes later with a thunderous left-footed shot.
Israel reached its best chance of the second half in the 80th minute, when
Roberto Colautti beautifully turned his defender in the box but had his shot denied by 'keeper Jonathan Tuffey's leg, making sure the match ended in a meaningless tie.
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