Is­rael gave Eng­land a life­line — but they blew it in a night to for­get

The Jewish Chronicle - - SPORT - BYDANNYCARO

Is­rael stuck to their side of the bar­gain by beat­ing Rus­sia 2-1 on Satur­day, leav­ing the way open for Eng­land to only have to draw — at home and against lowly Croatia — to qual­ify.

But it was all in vain as Steve McClaren’s men broke a na­tion’s heart with an in­ept dis­play that saw them crash to a 3-2 de­feat.

Is­rael fin­ished their Group E qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign on a high, beat­ing Mace­do­nia 1-0 on Wed­nes­day in front of only 3,000 fans, thanks to a strike from Elyaniv Barda, who scored the opener at the week­end.

The vic­to­ries take them into Sun­day’s 2010 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing draw in Dur­ban, South Africa, in buoy­ant mood. They will hope to be given an eas­ier draw and their strong fin­ish in the Euro­pean cam­paign will see them pro­moted into the pot for third seeds.

Man­ager Dror Kash­tan said: “Is­raeli foot­ball has a bright fu­ture ahead of it and our aim is to qual­ify for a big tour­na­ment. We have a young and tal­ented side and we would be wast­ing our time if we would not set our­selves lofty goals.

“I have in­te­grated young play­ers into the team through­out the cam­paign and I plan to con­tinue do­ing so. We showed our char­ac­ter and se­ri­ous­ness on Satur­day and we’re def­i­nitely pro­gress­ing.”

Hav­ing beaten Mace­do­nia 2-1 away in the cor­re­spond­ing fix­ture, Is­rael went into the Rus­sia game up­beat af­ter Omer Golan and Barda pre­served their home record of just one de­feat in the past eight years.

It has also been eight years since Is­rael beat higher-ranked op­po­si­tion in a com­pet­i­tive fix­ture.

Re­flect­ing on the Rus­sia win, standin cap­tain Tal Ben Haim said: “I was de­lighted with the re­sult and our over­all per­for­mance. We proved to the rest of the world how pro­fes­sional we are.

“The Rus­sians un­der­es­ti­mated us be­fore the match and made some cocky com­ments which acted in our favour.

“The re­sult is ob­vi­ously some­thing that has made a lot of my team-mates back at Chelsea very happy and proud.


Joy: Is­rael su­per­sub Omer Golan cel­e­brates the goal that rekin­dled Eng­land’s hopes of qual­i­fy­ing for Euro 2008 with a late win­ner against Rus­sia


De­jec­tion: Eng­land’s Steven Ger­rard re­flects on what might have been

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