Israel claimed their first points of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after winning 2-1 in Macedonia – though only after the hosts missed an injury time penalty.
2018 World Cup Qualifier Group G:
Macedonia 1 Israel 2
Thursday, 9 October, 2016
Having lost their opening game against Italy last month, Elisha Levy’s men knew they had to end a run of five successive defeats – which stretched back to last year – to keep alive any hopes of securing at least a play-off place in the group, and it was two first half goals from Brighton & Hove Albion striker Tomer Hemed and Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Tal Ben Chaim II which ultimately secured them the points.
The hosts looked the livelier in the opening exchanges with Goran Pandev going close early on, before they did find the back of the net in the 22nd minute, only for English referee Andre Marriner to rule it out for offside.
Israel took full advantage minutes later when Hemed headed in Eyal Golasa’s cross past Martin Bogatinov for his 13th goal for Israel.
They doubled their advantage two minutes before the break when Celtic’s Nir Bitton fed the ball to Ben Haim II, he showed great composure – and feet – as he left the ‘keeper on the ground, flicked it past him and fired the ball into the far, bottom corner.
Israel could have extended their lead, for what would have killed off the game, but Eran Zahavi passed up the opportunity to set up Hemed for what would have been a simple finish.
The hosts were though building up the pressure and pulled a goal back in the 63rd minute when IIija Nestorovski slotted the ball past David Goresh.
Goresh though wasn’t beaten in the fifth and final minute of injury time, when awarded a penalty, the Israeli goalkeeper thwarted substitute Adis Jahovic’s spot-kick as Levy’s men held on for the points, though there was still time for Eytan Tibi to be sent-off for a second yellow card.
Israel next host Albania on Sunday, KO 5pm UK time.
* Earlier on Thursday, Israel’s U21 side beat Greece 4-0 to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for next summer’s European Championships. Omri Altman scored twice, with Shoval Gozlan and Dor Peretz completing a win, which saw them claim their fifth win in the group, a result which sees them second place.