Israel produced their worst performance of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign – and of recent years – as they suffered a demoralising defeat at home to Albania.
World Cup Qualifier Group G:
Israel 0 Albania 3
Sunday, 11 June, 2007
With Spain and Italy almost certainties to finish as the top two teams in the group, both sides went into this game looking to cement third spot.
Israel were looking to complete a double over their visitors, having won the reverse fixture 3-0, but it was the Albanians who threatened with just 30 seconds on the clock, though a low cross played across the six-yard box flew harmlessly out of play.
Bibras Nacho had Israel’s first attempt on goal in the 12th minute – even if it was slightly unorthodox – when his long punt forward nearly caught out Thoma Strakosha, the Albanian goalkeeper was forced to tip the ball over the bar.
Armando Sadiku’s smart turn and low shot brought a smart stop from David Goresh minutes later, before Nacho brought out another save from Strakosha, this time the Albanian diving full-stretch to turn the curling effort away for a corner.
With chances being created at both ends, it was no surprise when the deadlock was broken in the 22nd minute, but it came for the visitors when a poor defensive clearance saw Odise Roshi play in Sadiku, and his perfectly placed strike gave Goresh no chance as the Albanians celebrated their first qualifying goal since last October.
Captain Eran Zahavi headed Eli Dasa’s cross straight at Strakosha as the Israelis looked to build up some momentum before the break, with Almog Cohen the next to go close with a header, though saw his effort sail wide.
However, it was to get worse for Israeli a minute before the break when Sadiku claimed his second of the match, taking the ball down, turning and firing into the bottom corner from fully 25 yards out.
Ben Sahar fired the ball into the side netting while Zahavi shot straight at Strakosha, as Israel looked to pull a goal back before the break, though they went into the break 2-0 down and to a chorus of boos.
With no change in the scoreline after ten minutes of the second half, Levy made his first change, bringing on another striker in Itay Shechter and less than a minute later, Sahar had their best chance of the match, though saw his shot deflected onto the outside of the post.
Idan Verad was brought on as Israel’s second substitute, before veteran Yossi Benayoun, Israel’s most capped player, came on for Sahar with 23 minutes of the match remaining. But it was the visitors who scored a third on the counter-attack, when Sokol Çikalleshi and Elseid Hysaj combined, the latter picking out Ledian Memushaj who had the relatively simple task of picking his spot past Goresh.
Zahavi brought out another fine stop from Strakosha as the game headed into its final minutes, though the game was by then long gone as Levy and his players were left to contemplate the most disappointing of evenings.
Tied on nine points and third in the table alongside Albania, Israel resume their qualifying campaign away at Macedonia in September.
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