Int'l Soccer: Disappointing Israel shows little class
Captain Benayoun scores only goal in 1-0 friendly win over Hungary.
By ALLON SINAI
Israel gave its fans little reason for optimism on Wednesday evening in its final tune-up match ahead of next month's crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier against Greece.
The national team eked out a 1-0 win over Hungary at National Stadium in Ramat Gan, but failed to display the quality and class needed to defeat the Greeks on March 28.
Any result other than a victory against Greece will seriously hurt the team's chances of advancing to a first World Cup in 40 years.
And if Wednesday's performance is anything to go by, it seems highly unlikely Dror Kashtan's side will be able to overcome the Group 2 leader both in the home game and then the return match four days later in Greece.
Israel didn't make any big mistakes and was solid in defense against a mediocre Hungarian side, but was poor on attack and didn't show any initiative on offense, something which will be a must in its next qualifier.
Yossi Benayoun scored the winner in the 76th minute in one of the team's only real opportunities of the match, denying Hungary a deserved draw.
"We didn't play well," Benayoun admitted after the match. "Truth be told, this was a dreary match, but it's nevertheless important to win. We will obviously need to improve ahead of the Greece match.
"I believe we can beat Greece, but not if we play like this."
Kashtan agreed with his captain. "The match wasn't played at a high level and I have no doubt that this form won't do against Greece," he said.
Israel, which is currently second in its qualifying group, winning two and drawing two of its four matches, seemed content with defending in the first half and with Hungary settling for long range shots, both teams rarely threatened to score.
Balazs Dzsudzsak was Hungary's most dangerous player in the first 45 minutes, forcing Dudu Aouate into action with powerful left footed efforts, but it was Israel's Roberto Colautti who reached the best chance of the half.
Six minutes before the interval, the industrious Benayoun easily beat his defender on the right flank and crossed the ball for the incoming Colautti.
However, the Borussia Monchengladbach striker failed to make contact with the ball and after the Hungarians clearance found him three meters from goal, he made a complete mess of a simple header, sending the ball above the crossbar.
The second half was much like the first, with neither team really looking to score.
Substitute 'keeper Nir Davidovitch kept out the Hungarians' best chance of the half in the 72nd minute, clearing Roland Juhasz dangerous header, and four minutes later Benayoun netted the winner.
Dedi Ben-Dayan's powerful cross was directed towards goal by Omer Golan and the Liverpool midfielder was well placed to tuck in the winner from one meter out.
Hungary pushed for an equalizer in the remainder of the match, but Sandor Torghelle's and Gergely Rudolf's attempts were both off target and Israel held on for the slender win.
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