Listless Israel falls 2-0 to Serbia; Fernandez ‘pleased’

Nat'l team played poorly throughout friendly encounter, had it not been for goalkeeper Aouate, would have fallen to a far more humbling defeat.

eyal golassa (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
eyal golassa
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Israel gave its fans little reason for optimism on Wednesday night, losing 2-0 to Serbia at Bloomfield Stadium in its final warm-up match before it resumes its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign next month.
The national team played poorly throughout the friendly encounter, and had it not been for goalkeeper Dudu Aouate, would have fallen to a far more humbling defeat.
“Even though we lost we could have equalized on several occasions,” Israel coach Luis Fernandez said. “Despite the defeat I’m pleased with the match.”
Israel, which is in fourth position in Group F with four points from four matches, hosts Latvia on March 26 before playing Georgia at Bloomfield three days later.
“I’m optimistic ahead of next month,” Fernandez added. “We must remember that we were without a lot of injured players tonight. I’m sure we will play a lot better in March.”
Serbia was the more dangerous team throughout the night.
After just seven minutes, Zoran Tosic had time and space in the Israel box, but his weak effort was saved by Aouate.
Israel’s ’keeper was kept busy during the entire match, and he was called into action yet again in the 17th minute, saving Dragan Mrda’s shot from close range.
Six minutes later, however, even the excellent Aouate could not come to his team’s rescue.
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic raced down the right flank before crossing an accurate ball for Tosic, who coolly tucked in a volley from five meters out.
The hosts finally created a chance in the 30th minute, but Bibras Natcho’s shot was weak and wide.
The blue-and-white’s best opportunity to equalize came in the first minute of the second half when substitute Gili Vermut found Elyaniv Barda in the box, only for the Genk striker to send his shot centimeters wide of the post.
Aouate kept Israel alive with a save from Mrda 10 minutes after the break, but Serbia clinched the win in the 76th minute.
Lax defending meant Veseljko Trivunovic had all the time in the world on the edge of the box, and he capped Serbia’s win with a superb left-footed effort.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel’s under-21 team lost 1-0 to Serbia.
Stefan Scepovic scored the only goal of the match at Bloomfield in the 67th minute, in what was Israel’s first of many warm-up games ahead of Euro 2013, for which the team has qualified automatically as the host.