ISRAELIsrael moved to the top of their 2016 European qualifying group after they emphatically beat ten-man Bosnia & Herzegovina in Haifa on Sunday night.

UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifier Group B
Israel 3 Bosnia & Herzegovina 0
Sunday, 16 November, 2014

Buoyed by wins in their opening two games and the result earlier on Sunday which saw Wales draw 0-0 in Belgium, Eli Gutman’s side knew a win in their first home game of the qualifying campaign would leave them sitting pretty at the top of the table, having also played a game less than the other sides in the group.

A lively start to the match saw both sides fashion out chances. Miralem Pianic was the first player to have an attempt on goal, though his free-kick was comfortably dealt with by Ofir Marciano in the Israeli goal.

Israel’s star of the first two games was Tal Ben Haim II and midway through the half, he began to test the Bosnians with several incisive runs down the left-flank. His first effort resulted in a shot which Asmir Begovic in the visitors goal, pawed out from just inside his near post, before another jinxing run ended with a more wayward effort clearing the bar. He went even closer, striking the outside of the post with Begovic in no man’s land after Omer Damari had rounded him and played the ball back to the midfielder.

Bosnia should though have opened the scoring on the half hour mark when Senad Lulic somehow failed to convert an inviting deep cross, and the Bosnians then began to enjoy their best spell of the match, Zoran Kyrzic forcing Marciano into two fine stops. Eran Zahavi replied at the other end with a fiercely-driven 20-yard effort which Begovic did well to parry out.

Israel didn’t though have to wait long to take the lead and their opening goal arrived in the 36th minute. Zahavi touched the ball to Gil Vermouth on the edge of the box, and the Hapoel Tel Aviv midfielder was allowed to turn on the edge of the box before firing in a shot, which aided by a slight deflection off Emir Spahic, fizzed its way past Begovic.

Vermouth was at it again soon later, evading two challenges on a fine solo run, before setting up Zahavi, who once more brought out a sprawling save from Begovic.

Israel coach Eli Gutman would have been more than satisfied to take his side into the half-time interval leading 1-0, but it got even better for them on the stroke of half-time when they doubled their lead. The creative Zahavi was once more in the thick of things, this time setting up Damari, and the striker who’s already scored four times in their first two games, made no mistake with a clinical finish into the bottom corner.

The Bosnians made a double-substitution at the break, but things took a further turn for the worse for them within two minutes of the restart. Damari was sent scampering clear, only for Toni Sunjic to bundle the striker over on the edge of the box. And while the resulting free-kick came to nothing, the Israelis were nevertheless in total control of the game.

With the man advantage, flowing with confidence, and Bosnia needing to find a way back into the game, Israel held back and looked to counter, one such move resulting in four men pouring forward against two defenders, though Vermouth’s strike was superbly tipped over the bar.

Another such attack saw Bibras Natcho play in the marauding full-back Eyal Meshhumar, but Begovic raced quickly off his line to smother his effort. However, they weren’t going to keep on missing chances and when Zahavi was put clean through in the 70th minute, he made no mistake as he effortlessly slotted the ball past Begovic to claim his third goal for his country.

The win sees Israel sitting pretty at the top of the table, a point clear of Wales, and also with a game in hand. They also have a five-point lead over group favourites Belgium, both both countries having played three games.

Israel resume their campaign in March with two home games, first against group favourites Belgium, before then hosting Gareth Bale and Wales three days later.

Group Standings:

  P W D L F A Diff Points
Israel 3 3 0 0 9 2 7 9
Wales 4 2 2 0 4 2 2 8
Cyprus 4 2 0 2 9 5 4 6
Belgium
3 1 2 0 7 1 6 4
Bosnia & Herzegovina 4 0 2 2 2 6 -4 2
Andorra 4 0 0 4 2 17 -15 0