Israel settles for friendly Ivory Coast draw

After losing early two goal home lead, national team must be satisfied with 2-2 result.

benayoun 248.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
benayoun 248.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel coach Dror Kashtan was pleased with his team's performance on Wednesday evening, despite seeing his side concede an 85th minute equalizer in the 2-2 friendly draw against the Ivory Coast at National Stadium in Ramat Gan. The national team opened an early 2-0 lead thanks to Elyaniv Barda's and Omer Golan's goals in the 18th and 24th minutes, but an Avi Strul own goal in the 32nd minute and a powerful Boubacar Sanogo strike five minutes before the final whistle earned the visitors a deserved draw. "On the one hand, we are disappointed because we led 2-0, but overall when I look back at my team's performance I feel very satisfied," said Kashtan, who also claimed Wednesday's match was an excellent preparation for his team's upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Israel, which hosts Hungary on February 11 in its final friendly match before it resumes its qualifying campaign, hosts Greece on March 28 and visits Athens just four days later in two matches which will likely make or break its hopes of reaching a first World Cup in 40 years. Ivory Coast dominated the possession for the majority of the encounter, but was mostly held at bay by the Israel defense, which made sure Chelsea stars Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou had a quiet game. "We conceded two goals from two mistakes, but after that we played good football and scored two goals," Drogba said. "Israel isn't ranked 15th in the world for nothing. They played a good match, but I think we gave them a tough game as well." It took 18 minutes for Israel to register the first chance of the match and Barda made it count. Yossi Benayoun stole the ball at the center of the field and laid it off perfectly for the Genk striker, who blasted his shot into the near corner. Six minutes later, another Benayoun assist set up Golan for Israel's second. The Liverpool midfielder raced down field and sent an elegant pass to Golan, who easily beat his Lokeren teammate Boubacar Barry to double the hosts lead. Despite being two goals down, the Ivory Coast dictated the play and got its reward in the 32nd minute. Emerse Fae pass hit defender Avi Strul on its way to goal, giving 'keeper Dudu Awat no chance. The visitors should have tied the score before the break but, to Israel's relief, Guy Demel made a complete mess of his open shot five minutes before the interval. Roberto Colautti, who came on as a substitute at the start of the second half, almost scored 26 seconds after break, with only the crossbar denying his header. Ivory Coast took complete control of the encounter in the subsequent minutes, and was only denied an equalizer by some desperate Israel defending. The visitors would, however, get the goal they deserved in the 85th minute. Sanogo blasted the ball beyond substitute 'keeper Liran Shtrauber to the disappointment of the 27,000 fans hoping for an Israel victory. Earlier Wednesday, Israel's Under-21 team lost 3-2 to Serbia also at Ramat Gan. Nemanja Matic gave the visitors the lead in the 10th minute and Serbia opened a two-goal cushion by the 22nd minute after Marko Milinkovic breached the Israel defense. Matic scored his second of the match in the 40th minute to give Serbia a 3-0 halftime lead, but Israel did at lest manage to save some pride in the second half thanks to goals from Mohammed Gadir (49) and Dudu Biton (90). Ben Sahar, who started for the Under-21 team on Wednesday, will return to Chelsea from loan at Portsmouth in January after the south coast club decided not to renew the 19-year-old's six-month long loan. Sahar scored four goals in the preseason for Pompey, but hasn't appeared in a single competitive match for the team and has not featured in a squad for the past 14 matches. "Ben will go back in January, it has been a mutual decision," Portsmouth executive chairman Peter Storrie toldThe Portsmouth Daily News. "He's not been involved and we feel sorry for the boy but the coaches feel he's not at that level, that he will be better in the Championship. "I can understand why the boy thinks he should be in the Premier League, after all he plays internationally. He's had injuries and knocks but quite frankly needs to play and to go somewhere for that to happen - and I think at the moment that would be in the Championship." Jeremy Last contributed to this report