Israel spoils Wales party with battling goalless draw


Israel denied Wales the win that would have ensured qualification for next year’s European Championships finals with a goalless draw in Cardiff.

The visitors went into the game on the back of a 4-0 victory over Andorra, but they were forced to defend for long spells, with goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and captain Tal Ben Haim in commanding form.

Wales dominated the first half and pushed Israel back, forcing a series of early corners. Aaron Ramsey tested the reflexes of Marciano as early as the second minute before heading over an open goal after Ben Haim had blocked a shot from Andy King with his boot.

There was a celebratory mood inside the ground, with no signs of the reported anti-Israel protests, in a contest where Israel had four players booked. Marciano was spoken to by the referee for time-wasting as Israel looked to break up the play.

Israel defended deeply, with seven men behind the ball as they attempted to nullify the threat of Gareth Bale.

Wales, who have not qualified for a major tournament for 57 years, continued to pepper the Israel goal and there was a let-off early in the second half when Bale curled a free-kick over the crossbar from just outside the penalty area.

Marciano was well placed to deny King before Israel mustered their first shot after 69 minutes, but Bibras Natcho’s rising drive cleared the bar by some distance.

Having offered no attacking threat in the first half, Tomer Hemed had Israel’s best chance on 80 minutes, arching backwards to head the ball goalwards, with Wayne Hennessey diverting the ball away for a corner.

There was drama late on as Bale forced a superb finger-tip save from Marciano. Welsh fans were celebrating deep into stoppage time after substitute Simon Church headed into the net only for the referee to chalk off the effort for offside.

Israel conclude their qualifying campaign with matches at home to Cyprus followed by Belgium away.

Israel boss Eli Guttman reflected on a job well done. "It was my plan to sit here now in front of you with one point," he said.

"Everything, I believe, depends on the next game," said Guttman. "I believe Wales are strong enough to bring one point from Bosnia and we need to make our job."

Wales manager Chris Coleman said: "The expectation was there for us to win the game and get ourselves over the line. The supporters were fantastic again, the atmosphere was incredible and they were desperate to celebrate.

"Israel obviously came here to get a point; I won't criticise them for that. It was all us. Two games, four points, so it's positive, but we will have to wait a little bit longer."

Meanwhile, a goal from Eden Hazard earned Belgium victory in Cyprus which prevented Wales from clinching their place in the finals in France next year.

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