What a give­away

The Jewish Chronicle - - Sport - BY SI­MON GRIVER

IS­RAEL missed the chance to go top of their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing group when they con­ceded a last-minute goal in Latvia on Wed­nes­day night.

Cap­tain Yossi Be­nay­oun had put Is­rael ahead but the vis­i­tors’ fail­ure to claim max­i­mum points in a match they dom­i­nated could cost them dearly as they strive to reach the fi­nals for the first time in 40 years.

Be­nay­oun’s strike four min­utes into the sec­ond half looked set to help Is­rael make it six points from two games af­ter beat­ing Lux­em­bourg 3-1 on Satur­day night, as they strived to keep within strik­ing dis­tance of Group 2 front-run­ners Greece.

Man­ager Dror Kash­tan said: “We moved the ball around well and con­trolled the game. But we paid for one mis­take in the last minute. We should have got the ball into the Lat­vian half but, in­stead, kept pass­ing it back into our own half.”

The re­sult was all the more frus­trat­ing as group leaders Greece were beaten 2-1 at home by Switzer­land to leave Is­rael a point off the top spot af­ter four games.

Is­rael had most of the pos­ses­sion in the first half but failed to cap­i­talise on their su­pe­ri­or­ity as the tall Lat­vian de­fend­ers dealt with an aerial bom­bard­ment com­fort­ably. Is­rael’s only shot on tar­get came in the 42nd minute when Elyaniv Barda turned on the edge of the area to send in a pow­er­ful strike which An­dris Vanins did well to push away.

Be­nay­oun broke the dead­lock with an ex­cel­lent strike into the top cor­ner. Is­rael sat back for much of the sec­ond half but Latvia failed to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties. Barda al­most put the match be­yond the hosts in the 85th minute when he smashed a vol­ley on to the un­der­side of the bar.

Latvia pun­ished Is­rael’s in­abil­ity to kill off the match when An­drejs Ru­bins broke down the wing and crossed for Vladimir Kolen­sni­cenko to poke home.

The draw marked a vastly im­proved per­for­mance from the one that saw Is­rael win 3-1 in Lux­em­bourg on Satur­day night. Is­rael got off to a dream start when home keeper Jonathan Jou­bert fouled Omer Golan in the first minute. Be­nay­oun con­verted the penalty.

Lux­em­bourg lev­elled through Rene Peters and al­most took a shock lead but Gilles Bettmer’s shot hit the post.

Is­rael re­gained the lead in the sec­ond half when Golan fired home and they sealed victory with seven min­utes left when Salim Touame cut in from the right to hit a su­perb ris­ing shot.

Is­rael re­turn to qual­i­fy­ing action next spring with a cru­cial dou­ble­header against group leaders Greece who will play at Ra­mat Gan on March 28 with the re­turn in Athens on April 1.

Is­rael’s Un­der 21 team failed to reach next sum­mer’s Euro fi­nals af­ter los­ing 3-1 against Italy in Tel Aviv on Wed­nes­day. Toto Ta­muz scored for Is­rael who drew the first match 0-0.

PHOTO: AP

Is­rael cap­tain Yossi Be­nay­oun scored in both World Cup qual­i­fiers

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