Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Sheran Yeini made his first appearance for the national side, starting and finishing in last Friday's World Cup Qualifier against Portugal. After appearing in two friendlies, striker Eliran Atar also made his first official appearance in the second half
Israel's World Cup qualifier against Portugal on Friday in front of 38,000 fans at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan ended in a frustrating 3-3 draw, after seeing a 3-1 advantage wither in the second half and evaporate altogether in time added on. After an early Portuguese strike, Israel had marched to a two goal advantage through first-half efforts by Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben Bassat , and a second-half goal by Rami Gershon. But a goal two minutes later by Helder Postiga and another deep into injury time by Fabio Coentrao levelled the score, dividing the points between the two and maintaining the status quo in Group F with both sides on 8 points after 5 matches and Israel ahead on goal difference. Both sides trail Russia by four points, whose match in Northern Ireland was cancelled due to heavy snowfall in the capital Belfast. One other match in the group saw Azerbaijan finish goalless against Luxembourg.
After just two minutes played Portugal was already in the lead thanks to a header by Zenit St Petersburg defender Bruno Alves. But goals by Majorca striker Tomer Hemed in the 24th minute and Toulouse striker Eden Ben Bassat five minutes before the break put Israel ahead at half time. Ten minutes after the hour mark Israel was 3-1 up courtesy of a header by Standard Liege defender Rami Gershon, now on loan at Celtic. But that two goal cushion lasted all but two minutes when an impressive run by Real Madrid and former Manchester United striker Christiano Ronaldo resulted in a second Portuguese goal, this time by Real Zaragoza striker Helder Postiga. Then deep into injury time, the Israel defence failed to clear a ball that ricocheted off Real Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao into the Israeli net to level the score at 3-3 just before the final whistle.
Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Sheran Yeini made his maiden appearance for the national squad, receiving from head coach Eli Gutman the number 13 jersey. Maccabi defender Eitan Tibi received his ninth cap for the national side and like Yeini spent all 90 minutes on the pitch. Just after the hour mark, Maccabi striker Eliran Atar came on as a substitute to make his first official appearance in the national side after appearing in friendlies against Belarus and Finland. Three other members of the Maccabi Tel Aviv squad sat in reserve on the bench: Midfielders Maharan Radi, Gal Alberstein and Eran Zahavi.
This coming Tuesday the Israeli national side will head for Belfast where, weather permitting, they'll play their sixth qualifying match in Group F against Northern Ireland.
U21s: Israel 1 – Netherlands 2
The night before the senior squad faced Portugal, Israel's U21's played a friendly match against their Dutch counterparts in front of 9,000 spectators at the "Moshava" Stadium in Petah Tikvah. The young Israeli's played well but ultimately lost to a superior Dutch side by the score of 2-1. Head coach Guy Luzon included Maccabi striker Moannes Dabbur and midfielder Moshe Lugassi in his starting 11, with the latter being substituted at half time. With just eight minutes gone, Dutch U21 captain and Anderlecht defender Bram Nuytinck headed past Israel and Hapoel Kfar Saba keeper Boris Kleyman to put the "Orange" side 1-0 ahead. Just after the half hour mark Israel managed to equalise against the run of play after some fine play by Maccabi's Moannes Dabbur set up Bnei Yehuda striker Or Baruch whose goal levelled the score at 1-1. But with the match three quarters gone, a spot kick by Borussia Mönchengladbach striker Luuk de Jong decided the match 2-1 in the visitors' favour.
The Dutch U21 squad will be returning to Israel this summer for the European under 21 championship and are expected to hold their practices at Maccabi's Kiryat Shalom training grounds.
African World Cup qualifiers: Nigeria 1 – Kenya 1
Maccabi Tel Aviv's Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was once again in front of goal for his country in a match against Kenya in the African World Cup qualifiers. Kenya took the lead just after the half hour mark thanks to a goal from the young striker Francis Kahata. This year's African Cup of Nation winners Nigeria left it late but in injury time a goal by midfielder Nnamdi Oduamadi, now playing for the Italian Serie B side Varese on loan from AC Milan, spared the "Super Eagles" blushes in a surprising 1-1 draw.
Photos – Nir Keidar