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Ofir Kriaf’s stunning strike which saw Israel beat England 1-0. Picture: Nir Keidar

U21 European Championship Group A
Israel U21 1 England U21 0
Tuesday, 11 June, 2013

Israel ended their European Championships on a high as they beat Stuart Pearce’s England team 1-0 in Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

Despite not being enough to see them qualify for the semi-finals, the win did at least allow the Israeli fans to go home with something to cheer about, although it put to an end a thoroughly miserable tournament for the English.

Israel went into the game needing something of a miracle to qualify for the semi-finals, while England had nothing to play for, but pride.

Buoyed on by a partisan crowd, the home side started brightly with Sintayehu Sallalich looking particularly threatening down the left-hand flank, one teasing cross just failing to pick out an Israeli shirt.

England had the first golden chance of the match when Jonjo Shelvey’s fiercely-driven low cross found Tom Ince, though ten yards out, he completely mis-kicked, leaving Israel to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Captain Nir Biton then sliced wide from 25 yards out, before Sallaich, wasted a golden opportunity having been played in by Ofer Veta, but his near-post cross was pushed behind for a corner by Jason Steele in the England goal.

However, as the half progressed, England looked to gain more of a footing in the game, Shelvey played in Ince, who saw his shot blocked, before Shelvey tried his luck from distance though saw his rising shot clear the crossbar.

With the pressure mounting, Israel survived a double scare. First, Ince found himself clean through only to be denied by a fine stop from Kleyman, before from the following effort, Zaha saw his goal-bound header blocked.

With the teams resorting to long-range efforts as the half drew to an end, Munas Dabbur did provide the home crowd with something to get excited about though having found himself in a shooting position, dallied on the ball and was crowded out.

Zaha at the other end saw his run end with a shot which was comfortably collected by Kleyman as the game petered out to half-time.

The second half saw England start well, with Connor Wickham’s curling shot from the edge of the box a matter of inches off target.

As the home fans tried to rouse their team with chanting and clapping, they then soon to jeering and whistling as England enjoyed periods of sustained pressure, before a Mexican wave swept the ground.

The fans then nearly had something to really shout about when Biton let fly with a stunning strike from fully 25 yards – which beat Steele in the England goal – but struck the crossbar.

With the momentum now behind them, full-back Ofer Verta then arrowed a shot just past the far post. They had a similar good chance five minutes later when Steele fisted away a long ball forward – but only as far as Israel Zaguri, but with just the goalkeeper to beat – albeit fully 45 yards out – the winger didn’t have enough purchase on his shot, allowing Steele to recover.

Substitute Omir Altman, who plays for Fulham, then provided one of the moments of the match as he went on a mazy run down the right-hand side, but having got to the by-line, was unable to pick an Israeli shirt out as the ball drifted harmlessly across the face of the goal.

However, the moment that the partisan crowd had been awaiting arrived ten minutes from the end – and it was a moment worth waiting for. As Israel picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, Biton flicked it into the path of Ofir Kriaf and the Beitar Jerusalem needed no second invitation as he curled the ball into the far corner of the net.

With something to hang onto, the home support made deafening voice, and they were helped by some wasteful play from the English.

Four minutes of injury time didn’t help the nerves of the Israeli fans, but with England offering little up front, they held on for a famous win.

Speaking after the match, Israel manager Guy Luzon described beating England as being “a great honour” and a fantastic achievement for Israel as a country.

He said: “It’s a great honour to win this game and is a fantastic result for the country. England are a national team with a lot of quality players and a lot of talent. But Israel were united and organised, I was very satisfied with the level of quality our players performed at, and because of that they couldn’t beat us.

“England are a great team and it’s a great honour for us to beat them in this tournament. It’s fantastic for the atmosphere of our country and we are very proud of it.”

England manager Stuart Pearce said: “It was a real poor performance. Credit to Israel – they deserved to beat us but we’ve got players who haven’t performed and I think tonight maybe the players should take some responsibility.

“We’ve not performed at this tournament, we’ve been really poor. Hopefully the players will reflect on their performances at this tournament. It’s a real disappointment for me and everyone connected with England.”

Israel U21:
Boris Kleyman, Ofer Verta, Ben Vahaba, Omri Ben Harush,  Ofir Davidzada,  Ofir Krieff,  Nir Biton, Sintayehu Sallalich (Ahed Azzam 87), Munas Dabbur (Omri Altman 55),  Israel Zaguri,s Alon Turgeman (Orr Barouch 63)
Subs not used:
Barak Levy, Eliazer Dasa, Ido Levi, Mohammad Kalibat, Edi Gotlib, Taleb Tawatha

England U21:
Jason Steele, Nathaniel Clyne, Andre Wisdom, Tom Lees, Danny Rose, Nathaniel Chalobah (Marvin Sordell 78), Josh McEachran (Nathan Redmond 71), Wilfried Zaha, Jonjo Shelvey, Tom Ince (Jordan Henderson 46), Connor Wickham

Subs not used:
Jack Butland, Adam Smith, Steven Caulker, Craig Dawson, Jason Lowe,, Nathan Delfouneso, Declan Rudd

Attendance:
22, 183