No surprises for Israel in Slovenia

New captain Benayoun scores but hosts equalize in friendly draw.

benayoun west ham 88 (photo credit: )
benayoun west ham 88
(photo credit: )
A new coach, some new players, but the same old national soccer team. Israel's first match under coach Dror Kashtan ended in a 1-1 draw against Slovenia on Tuesday night after an uninspiring 90 minutes from both teams at Celje. Israel was fortunate to come away with the draw after being second best for most of the match. The blue-and-white did take the lead with 10 minutes to go thanks to Yossi Benayoun, but conceded a late goal as usual. The new captain's strike gave Israel the lead for only three minutes, as Slovenian substitute Goran Sukalo took advantage of Israel's poor defensive play and equalized. Kashtan's main concern should be with the performance rather than the score. The match against Slovenia was an insignificant friendly, but with only a few of weeks to go before qualifiers for the 2008 European Championship, Kashtan doesn't have long to improve his team. Israel's first Euro 2008 qualifier is September 2 in Estonia, and four days later, hosts Andorra. Kashtan began the match with an all-Betar Jerusalem defense and Dudu Awat in goal. Nir Davidovic has been the preferred goalkeeper over the last couple of campaigns, but it now seems that Kashtan has finally given Awat a chance to be the starting 'keeper. Slovenia began the match with pressure on the Israel goal and had its first scoring chance five minutes into the game. Kleman Lavric beat the Israeli defense to Robert Koren's cross, but his header, however, went wide of Awat's goal. The hosts continued to control possession and 16 minutes into the match had a fantastic chance to take the lead. Striker Milivoje Novakovic broke clear of the Israeli defense, but his shot was off-target. Novakovic's miss seemed to jolt Israel into action and the blue-and-white began to work its way into the match. Six minutes after the miss, Israel had its best chance of the half. Shlomi Arbeitman was all alone at the edge of the Slovenian box and should have taken the lead, but his left foot shot was centimeters wide of the goal. Two minutes before the break, Slovenia could have gone ahead, but Novakovic missed again, this time from five meters. Both teams continued to play uninspiring soccer in the second half and chances in front of goal were at a premium. Nine minutes into the half, Yaniv Katan ran clear of the Slovenian defense but hesitated with his shot. Katan continued to be Israel's most dangerous player and eight minutes later, crossed the ball perfectly for Michael Zandberg, who headed the ball poorly. Slovenia scored in the 73rd minute, but Andriy Komac's effort was disallowed for offside. Benayoun came on as a substitute with 25 minutes left and gave Israel the lead 15 minutes later. Omri Afek's cross was perfectly met by Benayoun's head. Three minutes later, the hosts equalized. Goran Sukalo headed in a free kick from 40 meters out. Israel played without striker Roberto Colautti. The Argentinian, who recently became a temporary resident in Israel following his marriage to an Israeli, waited in vain for written confirmation from UEFA that his paperwork had been approved and was forced to sit out the match.