Israel start Euro campaign in style


First-half strikes from Omer Damari and Tal Ben Haim helped Israel make a flying start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Cyprus in Nicosia.

Having claimed an impressive win in their first match against Bosnia, Cypriot fans turned up in their droves, and they saw their team start well with Andreas Makris stinging the fingers of new Israel no. 1 Ofir Martziano early on.

But Israel looked dangerous on the break and they forged ahead on 38 minutes when Austria Vienna forward Damari coverted a cross from Gili Vermouth.

Israel were in dreamland Damari put the visitors in front on the stroke of half-time when Ben Haim weaved his way into the Cyprus penalty area and slotted past Antonis Giorgallides.

The visitors appeared content to sit on their lead in the second half, but a good finish from Makridis set up a grandstand finish, with Israel on the back-foot.

And it needed a stunning reflex save from Martziano late on to keep out Vincent Laban's header in the closing stages.

Israel boss Eli Guttman said: "This was an excellent result. The main thing is we got three points and got the campaign off on the right foot.

"We could have made it easier for ourselves by scoring a third goal but it ended well. We created a lot of chances in the first half and played attacking, flowing football, but then, and this bothers me, from the 45th minute onwards the players just wanted the game to end. We can't let that happen. We sat back and left ourselves exposed and made it nerve wracking for ourselves."

Guttman singled out two players for special mention. Talking about debutante goalkeeper Ofir Marciano he said: "Ofir had an exceptional game. He is playing well lately and it's my job to pick the form players and he came through for us today."

On striker Tal Ben Haim, who made the first for Omer Damari and scored the second he added: "I played him on the left flank and knew that in one-on-one situations against his marker he'd devastate him."

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