Sahar salvages Israel's World Cup dream

By Danny Caro, September 9, 2008

Ben Sahar swept home an injury time equaliser as Israel clawed back a two goal deficit against Switzerland to cling on to its World Cup qualification dreams.

Two late goals thanks to Premier League stars Yossi Benayoun and Sahar meant that Israel's 2-2 draw against Switzerland in its opening World Cup qualifier at Ramat Gan on Saturday night seemed like a point gained rather than two thrown away.

The Swiss seemed to be cruising to a comfortable victory. Hakan Yakin put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half time with a sublime free-kick that went in off the underside of the bar giving Dudu Awat no chance and it was Yakin again in the 56th minute who floated over a free kick for Blaise Nkufo to head home.

Israel looked disjointed and dull and many in the 31,000 crowd began calling for Dror Kashtan to resign.

But the Israeli manager's three second half substitutions did breathe some life into the boys in blue. Elyaniv Barda who had come on for Omer Golan slipped the ball to Benayoun in the 73rd minute and the Israeli captain poked home to reduce the arrears.

Then in the 92nd minute the two other substitutes combined for the equaliser as Moshe Ohayon on the left flank whipped over a low cross for Sahar to volley sweetly home from close range.

Switzerland's manager Ottmar Hitzfeld blamed the heat on his team's collapse in the last 20 minutes, while Kashtan said, "the great thing about this team is their new spirit. They never give up."

That said Israel will have to greatly improve on this performance to reach the World Cup finals in South Africa.

Read more about Israel's World Cup campaign in Friday's JC after Kashtan's men play away to Moldova on Wednesday night.

Last updated: 6:18pm, September 9 2008