Israel’s last remaining hopes of reaching next summer’s World Cup in Russia were finally extinguished on Tuesday night after they were beaten 1-0 by Italy.
World Cup Qualifier Group G:
Italy 1 Israel 0
Tuesday, 5 September, 2007
Making five changes from their 1-0 home loss to Macedonia on Saturday evening, former Bolton and Chelsea defender Tal Ben Haim was captaining the side after Eran Zahavi’s suspension – and subsequent retirement from international – while Ariel Harush was making his first competitive appearance in three years in goal for Elisha Levy’s side..
The Italians who in theory are playing for second spot, should have taken the lead with barely 40 seconds on the clock, though Andrea Belotti placed his shot wide of the far post.
The hosts dominated in the first 25 minutes, enjoying 75 percent of the ball, but failed to really test Harush in goal. Marwan Kabha went on a superb weaving run for the visitors, only to be denied a shooting chance by a sliding tackle by Andrea Conti.
A far from full crowd at Stadio Citta del Tricolore the to wait until the 42nd minute to see the first shot on goal – and it came from the visitors when Almog Cohen forced a smart stop from Gianluigi Buffon as he turned his 15-yard shot over the bar, before Italy nearly went ahead in first half stoppage time when Harush spread himself superbly to keep out Lorenzo Insigne’s shot.
Harush was though powerless to prevent Ciro Immobile opening the scoring for Italy seven minutes after the restart when he headed in Antonio Candreva’s cross, the finish coming after concerted pressure from the home side straight from the kick-off.
Harash then produced a super stop to deny Belotti scoring Italy’s second of the evening, before Yossi Benayoun came on as a 68th minute substitute to become the first Israeli to win a 100th cap.
The pattern of the match continued as Harash continued to thwart the Italian attacks, though at the other end Tal Ben Haim II came on a substitute and two half chances, first sprinting clear only to be caught by the last Italian defender, before attempting a chip over Buffon, when he would have been better off taking a shot on goal.
That though was as good as it got as the final whistle saw Israel left to reflect on another unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign, which came at the end of a tumultuous three days where they lost both at home to Macedonia and their captain Eran Zahavi who quit the team.
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