Israel beaten by Greece

September 2, 2011
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Israel's Euro 2012 qualification hopes are hanging by a thread after they were beaten 1-0 at home by Group F leaders Greece on Friday afternoon.

A second-half strikes from Sotirios Ninis was all that separated the teams at the Bloomfield Stadium.

Going into the game, Luis Fernandez, the Israel coach, said that Israel needed four points from the next two games but they must now win in Croatia on Tuesday night to keep alive their hopes.

Yossi Benayoun, the Israel captain, took his place in the starting line-up despite only playing one minute of the season. He was in London on Wednesday to complete a one-year loan move to Chelsea from Arsenal.

Greece had the slight edge in a tight first half. The best chance fell to Dimitrios Salpigidis midway through the half. The forward’s volley from a ball swung in from the right was well held by a fully stretched Dudu Awat.

Benayoun failed to get a look-in as Greece - who came looking for a draw - crowded the middle of the pitch.

The visitors had almost forged ahead when Georgios Samaras' diving header was cleared from underneath the bar after 53 minutes.

Israel came close minutes later when Tomer Hemed, who had just replaced the disappointing Itay Schecter, headed a floated cross from Benayoun wide.

The decisive moment saw Ninis break the deadlock on the hour after Israel were caught napping in midfield. He ran past the left side of the Israel defence before delivering a shot inside Awat’s right-hand post.

Israel failed to build any attacking momentum until the closing stages. Yuval Shpungin found Lior Refaelov who smashed over a first-time shot from 15 yards in the 83rd minute.

Both teams picked up five bookings in a win that takes Greece four points clear of Israel with a game in hand.

Israel: Dudu Awat, Yuval Shpungin, Rami Gershon, Beram Kayal, Almog Cohen (sub: Bebras Natcho 61), Lior Refaelov, Schecter (sub: Omer Damari 55), Yossi Benayoun, Eran Zahavi (sub: Tomer Hemed 55), Omri Ben Harush. Subs not used: Guy Haimov, Maor Buzaglo, Eyal Golasa, Tamir Cohen

Booked: Zahavi 4, Cohen 38, Kayal 44, Ben Harush 61, Natcho 75

Group F Table
1. Greece Pl. 7, Pts. 17
2. Croatia Pl. 6. Pts. 13
3. Israel Pl. 8, Pts. 13
4. Georgia Pl. 7, Pts 9
5. Latvia Pl. 6, Pts. 4
6. Malta Pl. 6, Pts. 0

Last updated: 5:39pm, September 2 2011