Coentrao late show denies Israel famous win
A last-gasp strike from Fabio Coentrao denied Israel a famous win at the Ramat Gan Stadium as Portugal came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 against Eli Guttman's men on Friday afternoon.
Israel went into the World Cup Group F qualifier in second place, ahead of Portugal on goal difference, but it was the visitors who made the perfect start with Bruno Alves heading home a corner from Miguel Veloso's inside the opening two minutes.
There were fears that there would be a repeat of the 4-0 victory by group leaders Russia, but Israel showed the improvement they have made under Gutman with Real Mallorca marksman Tomer Hemed making it 1-1 midway through the half.
Israel grew in confidence as the match went on and they forged ahead five minutes before half-time when Eden Ben Basat latched on to a sliderule through ball from Hemed to smash a shot past Patricio into the roof of the net from just inside the box following a pass from Maor Melikson.
Portugal, who are seventh in the FIFA rankings, had the better of the second half and it needed an excellent save from Dudu Awat to deny Portugal substitute Carlos Martins.
Israel were in dreamland 20 minutes from time when Celtic star Rami Gershon made it 3-1 with a free header to send the 40,000 Tel Aviv into wild celebration.
But a strike from Helder Postiga set up a grandstand finish as he fired home a pass from Cristiano Ronaldo from six yards.
Israel tried desperately to hold on to their slender advantage, but Coentrao's stoppage time strike, after Hugo Almedia's header had hit the bar, kept the teams level on points in second place.
No doubt, a point would have been considered a positive result by Guttman before the game, but having held a 3-1 advantage with 20 minutes remaining, it was a big opportunity missed.
"I promised that the [4-0] humiliation against Russia wouldn't be repeated.," Guttman said after the game. "On the one hand I’m disappointed, but I’m also taking the good things from this game.
"There has been criticism that Ronaldo was below par, but maybe they should have written that Ronaldo played poorly because his marker played so well? Maybe he didn’t play well because we did our job? It could be said that if we had thrown players forward, Portugal would have sent long balls to Ronaldo – then only God could have helped us prevent goals.”
Israel travel to Belfast on Tuesday night to take on Northern Ireland.
Israel: Dudu Awat, Yuval Shpungin, Tal Ben Haim, Maor Melikson (sub: Lior Refaelov 73), Bebras Natcho, Beram Kayal, Eden Ben Basat (sub: Yossi Benayoun), Tomer Hemed (sub: Eliran Atar), Sheran Yeini, Rami Gershon, Eytan Tibi.
Subs not used: Daniel Amos, Ariel Harush, Gal Alberman, Etey Shechter, Dekel Keinan, Eran Zahavi, Avraham Rikan, Maharan Radi, Gal Shish
Scorers: Hemed 24, Ben Basat 40, Gershon 70
Bookings: Kayal 28, Hemed 44, Melikson 58
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Bruno Alves (sub: Hugo Almeida 74), Pepe, Miguel Veloso (sub: Carlos Martins 61), Fábio Coentrão, Cristiano Ronaldo (capt), João Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Silvestre Varela (sub: Vieirinha 60), João Pereira, Hélder Postiga
Subs not used: Eduardo, Beto, Custódio, Danny, Paulo Machado, Sereno, Luís Neto, Silvio, Pizzi
Scorers: Alves 2, Postiga 72, Coentrao 90+3
Bookings: Carlos Martins 66, Coentrão 58, Ronaldo 72
GROUP F STANDINGS:
1. Russia Pl. 4, Pts. 12
2. Israel Pl. 5, Pts. 8
3. Portugal Pl. 5, Pts. 8
4. Northern Ireland Pl. 4, Pts. 3
5. Azerbaijan Pl. 4, Pts. 2
6. Luxembourg Pl. 4, Pts. 1