Ben Basat halts Portugal's World Cup charge
Eden Ben Basat helped Israel restore some pride as they put a big dent in Portugal's World Cup qualification hopes with a 1-1 draw in Lisbon.
Israel were denied a famous win against Portugal in the home match a few months ago after throwing away a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3, in a result that effectively ended their hopes of a top two finish in the group.
But they proved stubborn opponents for a star-studded Portugal team who included Real Madrid stars Pepe and Ronaldo, who were booked on the night.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento named an attacking line-up that included Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and Nani, while Israel were without striker Tomer Hemed due to a knee injury.
It looked as though the hosts were on their way to a routine win when Ricardo Costa opened the scoring with a close-range finish in the sixth minute. Pepe cushioned a deep cross back across the six-yard box and Costa got down low to head his team in front.
Manchester United's Nani tested the reflexes of Israel no. 1 Dudu Awat midway through the half, while Hugo Almeida had a goal ruled out shortly after the break.
Ben Basat an Omri Ben Harush had spurned good opportunities but Ben Basat showed good belief to chase down a clearance from Rui Patricio before the striker coolly applied the finish to silence the Stadio Jose Alvalade crowd.
Israel boss Eli Gutman said: “I’m not celebrating because we didn’t win. In retrospect I still feel that we missed a chance to end the group in second place. And that happened because we didn’t cope well with the pressure, which was also the case in the first half against Portugal.
"I told the players to go out and enjoy themselves in the second half and we saw an Israel team that wanted to win the match. A 1-1 draw in Portugal is a very nice result.”
Goalkeeper Dudu Awat commented: "We are very pleased with the draw. Portugal needed the points but we played a brilliant match."
Ronaldo paid a back-handed compliment to an Israel defence he failed to penetrate. "We have to improve in many aspects," he said. "Israel had two buses behind the ball and when it's like that it's hard to score.
"We were apathetic in the second half, looked sleepy even, and things did not go well. We lacked a bit of maturity at times, maybe it was because we had a young team with a lot of changes."
The draw guarantees Israel will end Group F in third place. They currently have 13 points from nine matches and conclude their campaign at home to Northern Ireland on Tuesday.