Hemed rekindles Israel's World Cup hopes
Israel climbed to second in their World Cup qualifying group after completing a win-double over Luxembourg.
Having beaten Luxembourg 6-0 away on Friday, Eli Guttman’s men ran out 3-0 winners at the Ramat Gan National Stadium.
Striker Tomer Hemed, who fired a hat-trick last week, added two more to his tally, with Eden Ben Basat completing the scoring.
And with Northern Ireland claiming a 1-1 draw in Portugal, Israel’s victory has lifted them into second place, behind Russia.
Hemed opened the scoring on 12 minutes following an excellent pass from Bibras Natkho. The same player helped set up the second, allowing Ben Basat to place an exquisite lob into the net.
Mallorca striker Hemed made it five goals in two games with his second of the night three minutes into the second half to ensure there would be no way back for Luxembourg.
Luxembourg came close to claiming a last-minute consolation but defender Dekel Keinan was on hand to clear off the line, ensuring a clean sheet for keeper Dudu Awat, who became Israel's most capped keeper on his 70th appearance.
Guttman said: "I'm very pleased with the players. They were ready for the challenge and fortunately our rivals had very few chances to score.
"We knew we had to move the ball around patiently and wait for the opening."
Having rekindled their qualification hopes, Israel now has five months to prepare for what will be a crunch clash against Portugal.
"Looking ahead to the match, Guttman said: "It's too early to say what we'll see against Portugal. I saw their game against Russia, they lost, but were in complete control of the game for most of the stages.
"We have a few months to prepare, and I hope that some of the players I'm counting on will find their form. Still, I’m very proud of the players who took to the field today."
Hemed knows chances will be harder to come by on March 22. “Against Portugal it will be a completely different story, and we’re all aware of that," he said.
"First we have friendlies against Belarus and Finland and we would love to have the fans turn out and support us."