Israel’s UEFA Nations League campaign got off to a disappointing start on Friday night after they were beaten 1-0 by Albania in Elbasan.
With Andreas Herzog taking charge of the side for the first time, the Israelis edged the first half, with Eran Zahavi – recalled to the side having quit international football a year ago – going close on two occasions, including stumbling past the home goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, but unable to bundle the ball into an open net.
Zahavi was forced off early in the second half, replaced by QPR’s on-loan striker Tomer Hemed, and with it, went Israel’s main threat.
The only goal of the game arrived in the 55th minute, when Taulant Xhaka – brother of Arsenal midfielder Granit – fired in from 20 yards past Maccabi Haifa’s Guy Haimov.
Israel now, in effect, needs to beat Scotland next month to keep alive its hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020, though first face a friendly match on Tuesday night, when they travel to Belfast to take on Northern Ireland.