Israel thump nine-man Albania in World Cup qualifier
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Israel thump nine-man Albania in World Cup qualifier

Goals from Eran Zahavi, Dan Einbinder and Eliran Atar help Israel stay on the heels of Italy and Spain in group G

Andrew Sherwood is the Jewish News Sport and Community Editor

Eran Zahavi (Captain) celebrates his goal against Albania
Eran Zahavi (Captain) celebrates his goal against Albania

Israel have kept alive their hopes of securing a top-two finish in their 2018 World Cup qualifying group after they recorded a 3-0 win in Albania on Saturday night.

2018 World Cup qualifying Group G:
Albania 0 Israel 3
Saturday, 12 November, 2016

While the build-up to the game had been overshadowed by security concerns – with the venue being switched from Shkoder to nearer the capital after ISIS terrorists had been arrested as a result of planning to attack the Israeli team, the game went off relatively peacefully, with only the sending-off of two Albanian players providing the controversy on the night.

Having weathered early pressure from the hosts, Israel took the lead in the 18th minute from the penalty spot. Captain Eran Zahavi was brought down in the box by Berat Xhimshiti, which not only resulted in the awarding of a penalty – but also saw the defender sent-off. Zahavi kept his composure to beat Etrit Berisha in the home goal.

Spurning a host of chances to give themselves a more comfortable advantage, the game swung further in their favour ten minutes after the restart, when Zahavi once again went down in the box. On this occasion, the referee waved play on, but in an off-the-ball incident, Berisha took exception to Zahavi’s plea for a penalty and head-butted him, which was spotted by the referee’s assistant and resulted in another penalty and Berisha being sent-off. However, Zahavi couldn’t repeat his earlier effort as he saw his second spot kick saved by substitute goalkeeper Alban Hoxha.

However, with a goal and two-man advantage, Israel were never going to relinquish their lead. Dan Einbinder made the game safe when he was in the right place at the right time, when Hoxha punched the ball from a cross straight into him, before substitute Eliran Ater raced through six minutes from time, lifted the ball past Hoxha, before tapping into an empty net.

The win, which was the first time they’ve recorded a third consecutive victory since the 2008 European qualifiers, sees them remain a point behind leaders Spain and Italy, ahead of their next game in March against Spain. The winners of the group automatically qualify for Russia 2018, with the eight best runners-up taking part in a two-legged play-off tie.

Group Standing:

  P W D L F A Diff Points
Spain 4 3 1 0 15 1 14 10
Italy 4 3 1 0 11 4 7 10
Israel 4 3 0 1 8 5 3 9
Albania 4 2 0 2 4 6 -2 6
FYR Macedonia 4 0 0 4 4 11 -7 0
Liechtenstein 4 0 0 4 1 16 -15 0
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