HAZARD

Eden Hazard was on target for Belgium

by Andrew Sherwood

Israel’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s European Championships are over after they were beaten 3-1 by Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday night.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Group B:
Belgium 3 Israel 1
Tuesday, 13 October, 2015

Knowing their chances of finishing in third place – and grabbing a play-off tie – were hanging by a thread following Saturday night’s home defeat by Cyprus, the Israelis had to win in Belgium, and hope Bosnia & Herzegovina failed to beat Cyprus.

After a quiet start from both sides, it was the Israelis who had the first real chance, and when Tal Ben Haim II was played through and brought down by Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, the visitors were set to win a penalty though saw their appeals dashed by the offside flag.

They came even closer to going ahead in the 21st minute when Eran Zahavi’s superb free-kick from the edge of area beat Mignolet, but not the post, the Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder seeing his effort crash back off the woodwork.

Belgium, who would rise to world number one in the FIFA rankings with a win, were fielding a full-strength team, including the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany, though it was a lesser known name, Dries Mertens who should have put the Belgians ahead, though from De Bruyne’s cross, he somehow failed to tap the ball into an empty net.

Lukaku had the first chance of second half when played in by Hazard, he beat the offside trap, rounded Ofir Marciano in the Israel goal, though as his touch took him wide, was unable to hit the target with his shot, before Kompany then headed straight at Marciano from a corner.

However, Israel then began to enjoy their best spell of the game, enjoying some possession of the ball and stringing together some passes, which meant when Belgium did go in front in the 64th minute – through Mertens’ low drive which beat Marciano at his near post – it was almost against the run of play.

There was though nothing against the run of play in the 78th minute when De Bruyne’s tame 25-yard free-kick beat Marciano, the goalkeeper getting two hands to the ball, but unable to keep the ball out.

Marciano did better minutes later, somehow keeping out another low De Bruyne strike, though was powerless to prevent Hazard making it three in the 84th minute, the Chelsea midfielder given the freedom of the penalty box, to calmly stroke the ball past Marciano.

Israel did at least have a goal to celebrate in the 88th minute when Brighton striker Tomer Hemed headed home Zahavi’s cross, though it was scant consolation to end what has been another, ultimately, disappointing campaign.

Final Group Standings:

  P W D L F A Diff Points
Belgium 10 7 2 1 24 5 19 23
Wales 10 6 3 1 11 4 7 21
Bosnia & Herzegovina 10 5 2 3 17 12 5 17
Israel 10 4 1 5 16 14 2 13
Cyprus 10 4 0 6 16 17 -1 12
Andorra 10 0 0 10 4 36 -32 0