The third fixture in the OFC qualification group stage would complete Israel’s home schedule, and at the same time it represented Australia’s first of two away matches. It was also the encounter between the two teams which had both won their opening matches, and with just four fixtures to play for the three participating nations, the race for the top spot was heating up: Who would go on to win the group and compete in the intercontinental play-offs against the winners of the CONMEBOL section’s Group 2, which would only be played out months later? Nearing the halfway stage, this is how the table read prior to kick-off:
Two weeks ago, the Israelis had opened their account in the Italia ’90 qualification with a narrow margin win at home to New Zealand. As this is a game which is being kept remarkably secret, we know preciously little about the turn of events and how that 1-0 scoreline came about. Judging by the team sheet, the Israelis were in a 4-3-3 formation, and if so, is this the formation which we’d see here once again?
Israel’s joint head coaches, Itzhak Schneor and Ya’acov Grundman, are responsible for their effort at reaching the World Cup for the first time in 20 years, and would they go for an identical starting line-up to last time out?
Among the 12 players which had been in use against the Kiwis, nine were from the domestic league, whilst two of their three starting strikers, Eli Ohana and Ronny Rosenthal, were plying their trade in Belgian football: Ohana with Mechelen, Rosenthal with Standard Liège. The third foreign based man had been Queen’s Park Rangers’ full-back David Pizanti.
Age wise, their team had looked sound, with the majority of the players at 24-26. Midfielders Efraim Davidi and captain Moshe Sinai had represented the experience at 29 and 28 respectively. At the other end of the scale had been holding midfielder Nir Klinger, 22.
Another home win could prove crucial in the race for the group’s top spot. A defeat would be likely to spell the end of Israel’s chances.
A terrific 4-1 win over near neighbours New Zealand had set the Australians in good stead ahead of this ardeous journey to the Middle East. They could well have identified this as the most difficult among their four group stage qualifiers, and so a point could well be the perfect return.
Having stunningly lost away to Fiji in the first leg of their preliminary round tie, they had bounced back at home with a 5-1 thrashing. They had negotiated those two matches with probably a less strong squad than the one which manager Arok had assembled for the visit of New Zealand, and now they were looking to take it up another notch with the addition of ace strikers Eddie Krnčević and Frank Farina, both based in Belgian football, with Anderlecht and Club Brugge respectively. The squad now looked about as strong as it could get, with defenders Wally Šavor and Steve Calderan having come in, as well as another expected appearance from skipper Charlie Yankos, who had flown in from Greece, where he was currently featuring for Thessaloniki side PAOK.
In midfield, Arok had added two seasoned men in the shape of Mike Petersen (who had also featured in the shock loss in Fiji) as well as the aerially strong Paul Wade for the New Zealand game, and they were available once again. They had largely dominated their opponents, and that handsom winning margin had been well earned. A draw here in Tel Aviv would be an excellent result for the Ossies, with the home tie against the same opponents yet to come.
In their attempt to acclimatize and shake off any travel sickness and jet lag, the Australians had arrived in Tel Aviv late Thursday night.
West German Manfred Neuner was 43 years of age. He had started refereeing at the highest level domestically in 1982, and made his international bow in December ’87, when he’d overseen a qualifier for the 1988 European Championships in his home country between Luxembourg and Scotland (0-0). He had refereed in three international friendlies, among which Israel’s 2-0 win against Malta in Beersheba only five months earlier had been the last of the set. Only six days after this tie, he would take charge of the Austria v Italy friendly in Vienna.
Mr Neuner’s profession was as leading sales representative at Mercedes-Benz. A refereeing career highlight was his leading the 1990 West German cup final, where Kaiserslautern would win 3-2 against Werder Bremen.
They had clashed recently, in the Olympic Games qualification ahead of the 1988 games in Seoul. That time, the qualification had been played out in New Zealand and Australia, so tonight’s visitors had not needed to travel far for the ‘away’ leg. Australia had won the encounter on home soil by 2-0, while the ‘return’ leg in New Zealand had ended goalless. The Australians had ultimately progressed through to the Olympic Games in South Korea, where they’d reached the quarter-finals, only to bow out to eventual winners USSR. Nine of the starters from the 2-0 win were still available to Australia manager Arok, while at least seven of those who participated for the Israelis in that tie were also still in the squad.
Ahead of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the two had crossed paths at this level for the first time since before the 1970 tournament in the same country, where the Israelis had ultimately made it through to the competition proper. However, in Tel Aviv in ’85, visiting Australia had won 2-1. The clash ‘Down under’ had ended all square – one all.
This, then, was the third time the two countries had been paired in World Cup qualification. The overall record hitherto read a win for each and two draws. Friendlies included, they had met a total of 13 times (Olympic qualifiers not counted), and the record was 4-6-3 in favour of today’s hosts. Four players in both camps were still present from the last clash back in October 1985 (1-1 in Australia).
Situated in the greater Tel Aviv district, Ramat Gan National Stadium was built in 1951. It has been the home of the Israeli national team for 38 years coming up to this tie today. The capacity was said to be somewhere in the 50,000 mould.
The game was an afternoon kick-off, and the stadium was pretty packed in the bright weather.
|1 Bonni Ginzburg||24||Beitar Jerusalem|
|2 Avi Cohen II||26||Beitar Jerusalem|
|3 Yehuda Amar||25||Hapoel Jerusalem|
|4 Nir Klinger||22||Maccabi Haifa|
|5 Shlomo Iluz||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|6 Nir Alon||25||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
|7 Moshe Sinai (c)||28||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|8 Efraim Davidi||sub 79′||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|9 David Pizanti||sub 83′||26||Queens Park Rangers|
|10 Eli Ohana||25||Mechelen|
|11 Ronny Rosenthal||25||Standard Liège|
|12 Eli Cohen||on 83′||28||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|17 Eli Driks||on 79′||24||Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|1 Jeff Olver||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|2 Wally Šavor||56′, 88′||29||Sydney Croatia|
|3 Alan Davidson||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|4 Charlie Yankos (c)||27||PAOK Thessaloniki|
|5 Steve Calderan||25||Marconi|
|6 Paul Wade||26||South Melbourne|
|7 Frank Farina||32′, sub 89′||24||Club Brugge|
|8 Mike Petersen||23||South Melbourne|
|9 Graham Arnold||25||Sydney Croatia|
|10 Oscar Crino||26||Footscray JUST|
|11 Eddie Krnčević||28||Anderlecht|
|x Graham Jennings||on 89′||29||Sydney Croatia|
The atmosphere inside the stadium, as would’ve been expected, seemed excellent, as the home fans certainly knew how to make themselves heard. Australia had won here in qualification for the 1986 World Cup, and the Israelis had no intentions of leaving empty handed on this occasion. The supporters were doing their utmost to create a hostile ambience.
Israel would kick the game into life, and it was their captain Moshe Sinai and his fellow midfielder Nir Klinger who would get the ball rolling.
A battle takes shape
With plenty at stake, the early proceedings are tight. Neither team has any wish to hand over the initiative to the opponent, and a physical battle is in the making almost from the word ‘go’. It would appear that Australia’s emphatic win the previous Sunday had done them a world of good, because they did not seem to express any signs of being intimidated in the hostile surroundings. In fact, they it was who would enjoy more time on the ball in the early stages, even if there is not a whole lot of enterprising passing play going on. That is simply not allowed in the circumstances. Players are quickly closed down, and there’s typically a free-kick at the end of most duels.
The Australians had utilised man-markers against the two New Zealand strikers last time out, and they were deploying similar tactics this time around, too. As they would very soon find out, though, they were up against an identical piece of tactics from the hosts, who had two of their defenders marking the two Belgium based visiting strikers. While it was very apparent right from the first few moments that the tall, lanky Nir Alon was looking after Eddie Krnčević, Frank Farina also was being accompanied. Shlomo Iluz, a 29 year old of Hapoel Be’er Sheva, was the solitary acquisition to Israel’s starting eleven since they had defeated the Kiwis, and he was doing his best to stay in the vicinity of Farina.
It is indeed Iluz who concedes a free-kick in a dangerous spot after less than four minutes has passed. The visitors’ skipper, 27 year old Europe based central defender Charlie Yankos, who had for sure proved already during the ongoing qualification that he had it in him to be a threat from distance, stepped up and struck a low shot towards the left corner of Bonni Ginzburg’s goal frame. From 20 yards, the 24 year old Beitar Jerusalem ‘keeper needs to produce a top drawer save with his right arm to keep the ball from whistling into the back of the net. Ginzburg had passed his early test.
Visitors on the front foot
When Oscar Crino shoots over the bar from a free-kick 24 yards out, the clock shows 19,24 minutes in. The hosts have yet to produce anything remotely threatening, and perhaps are the Israeli players paralyzed from pressure. There does seem to be nerves running through the entire team, and it is a collective failure so far which has seen them allow their opponents no less than five efforts goalwards, with none to show for themselves. Luckily for Israel, only Yankos has so far tested Ginzburg, so the threat of conceding has yet not been great.
From an Australian point of view, the first 20 minutes are a tactical and physical triumph. While they may not have worked themselves ahead in the goal charts, they have well and truly established domination, something which is an impressive feat in such surroundings and against a decent opponent. In addition to midfielder Crino’s latest attempt, there had been a headed effort from Farina seven yards out on 13 minutes, while Wade had struck high over when connecting first time after Farina’s deep cross from the left. The forward had done well to work himself into a crossing position, as he’d eluded tackles from both Iluz and Amar, bursting down the flank. Crino had even shot low towards the bottom left of the goal nine minutes in, when Petersen had won the ball from Cohen and played his number 10 in. It would’ve gone wide anyway, though Ginzburg decided to make sure it was diverted out for a left wing corner.
Israel: in depth
The Israeli hosts might also be struggling so far due to a formation change compared to the line-up which had taken to the field when New Zealand had been the visitors to this very stadium two weeks earlier. Forward Eli Driks had been sacrificed for more defensive power in the shape of Iluz, and so far this had seemed to play its part in disrupting the team fluency. Of course, there was also the possibility that they were now up against a considerably stronger opponent, and that this, too, should be taken into account.
In goal was the ‘keeper who by now was proving to be his country’s number one choice. 24 year old Ginzburg had been selected for each of their six Olympic qualifiers the previous year, and had by now clocked up 20 caps. This was not a bad feat for a goalkeeper at this relatively early stage in his career. The Beitar Jerusalem stopper seemed agile on the line, and unafraid to come for aerial balls. If he continued his development, Israel could well have a goalkeeper on their hands here for the next ten years or more.
Forming the five man defensive line were, from right to left: Avi Cohen II, Shlomo Iluz, Yehuda Amar, Nir Alon and David Pizanti. The former, a relatively strong-looking 26 year old, was a team mate of Ginzburg’s at Beitar Jerusalem, and so far he was in fact even operating slightly towards more central areas, as the defender nearest to him, Iluz, was sticking to Farina, who was orientating himself towards Australia’s left. Cohen must not be confused with his namesake Avi Cohen (hence today’s full-back earns a ‘mark II’ tag), whose international career looked to have ended after that Olympic qualification a year earlier. While it was clear Cohen was originally the right-back, he rarely pushed forward, and was clearly more restricted in his attacking approach than his wide-defensive partner opposite from him.
Iluz, the central defender tasked with looking to monitor Farina’s movements, had only arrived at the international stage less than half a year earlier. He would turn 30 next month, so it is possible that the man with the somewhat receding hairline was a ‘late bloomer’. He had not featured against New Zealand, and so far, it did appear as if the Israelis were struggling somewhat to adapt to a different foundation. Iluz often being dragged towards right-back territory, contributed to that level of confusion. He had also caused a couple of free-kicks, and did possibly look a little rash.
At the very heart of the host defence, sat libero Amar. A 25 year old from Jerusalem club Hapoel, Amar had so far acquitted himself well. He seemed composed, he looked familiar with the role, and he read the game well, something which made him position himself ideally to be equipped to nip in the bud most possible threats. While he did not appear particularly tall for a central defender, he still did well in aerial combat. The long-haired Amar, one of three Israelis with such a distinction (in addition to Pizanti and Ohana), looked a safe bet defensively hitherto.
Alon was the other man-marker, looking after the notorious Krnčević. Being 25 years of age, the Hapoel Petah Tikva player was coming of age in the harsh international climate, and he had been a mainstay since breaking into the side in January ’88. Alon was a massive centre-back, whose height obviously gave him certain benefits. As Krnčević was also known for his aerial ability, Alon was indeed more than a useful team member in this contest. He appeared to relish the battle, and he would rarely let the Australia striker stray far away.
Left-back Pizanti had moved to London ahead of the current season, where he was plying his trade at Queen’s Park Rangers in the metropolis’ west end. Now at 26, he was an energetic player with a great desire to come forward, and Israel’s transitional play looked to be partly built on Pizanti being played into space along the left, as the Australians were not operating with a distinct right-back against him. Defensively, Pizanti had not been directly challenged yet, as the away side didn’t really have a designated player to attack that flank. This also looked to be part of the reason for why the full-back was allowed such attacking freedom.
Up against Australia’s four, or at times even five, midfielders, Israel had a trio consisting of two players working at the base, with the side’s youngest man Nir Klinger operating alongside, or even slightly behind, Efraim Davidi. Klinger was rarely straying away from his territory, doing his best to shield his defenders, and looking a decent proposition in doing so. He was composed, and seemed to relish a challenge. Up against a team of such physical proportions as the Australians, this ability was a vital ingredient. Davidi, on the other hand, would cover a larger amount of territory, although he would usually be reluctant to drift too far inside the opposition’s final third of the pitch. Both players were so far modest in their possessional expression.
Benefitting from those two more holding midfielders was captain Sinai. The 28 year old of Hapoel Tel Aviv was another highly experienced member of the team, and now with Uri Malmilian no longer part of the squad, Sinai would need to accept greater responsibility. Today was the directing midfielder’s 39th appearance at national team level, something which was highest among the home players, though even Moshe Sinai had so far struggled to leave his print on the proceedings, even if he had been behind a couple of set-piece situations, where he would swing the ball into the box with his left foot.
Israel’s pair of forwards were earning their living abroad, and based with each their Belgian club, Eli Ohana, the left-footer among them, playing with his position originally towards the right, was a 25 year old under contract with progressive club Mechelen. He had recently not had much game time, though, and it remains unclear whether he’d recently been axed or perhaps even injured. The idea behind having a left-footed player work along the right hand territory, was obviously that Ohana would cut inside and threaten at goal. His marker Calderan, though, rarely afforded him this luxury.
Standard Liège’s Rosenthal, also 25, was at least featuring regularly at club level, but he had not scored since medio December. Working in a similar kind of role to Ohana’s, albeit along the left, Rosenthal’s style of play was more direct, and he did enjoy the support from Pizanti running in from behind him. He was constantly on the move, and thanks also to his size, Rosenthal would even engage in battle with some of Australia’s midfielders, attempting to halt their progress across the halfway line. Crino for sure had felt Rosenthal’s impact only six minutes in.
The first half evens out more after 20 minutes, as the Israelis manage to work themselves into a few attacking set-piece situations, predominantly a succession of right wing corners. This gets the crowd going, and it seems to further inspire the home players, who have certainly been on the back foot for long enough by now.
Pizanti’s role along the left had been one of few positive notes for Israel so far, and now the hosts were building courage, both Sinai and Ohana would collaborate with him along that left hand side. This prompted defensive action from Australia’s wide right midfielder Paul Wade, as he needed to do plenty of back checking in order to aid Wally Šavor behind him.
Despite their newfound optimism, Israel weren’t yet arriving at opportunity in front of Jeff Olver. Those flag kicks had rarely made it past the man at the near post, and the visitors appeared to have the upper hand in aerial battle, at least inside their own box.
The pace of the game was not breathtaking, as there were still the odd stop thanks to a tackle over the top or a pass astray across the touchline. Fluency was difficult to find, and certainly to maintain. It also appeared that the visitors were no longer reaching their earlier levels, and the game was turning into a bit of a stalemate as the half hour mark was approaching.
Australia: close up
The visiting pack were spread out in a 3-4-3 formation, something which had also been the case for the home tie against New Zealand last weekend. While they had wanted to sacrifice two of the players who had brought them in the current position, atop the qualifying group table, in speedy forwards Warren Spink and Scott Ollerenshaw, most people probably felt at ease with the return of that duo from Belgian football. Other than that, they were unchanged.
This meant that Melbourne Croatia’s 28 year old custodian Jeff Olver kept his place in the side, despite his error which had led to New Zealand’s goal last week. He was usually a steady performer, and the way he had conceded from Malcolm Dunford’s header then had been more out of character when comparing with the impression which he’d otherwise left so far in the qualification. Olver seemed highly dependable.
The three men forming the central defensive unit were, right to left: Wally Šavor, captain Charlie Yankos and Steve Calderan. The former and the latter were, as we’ve touched on already, looking after each their Israeli forward, with Šavor, also working towards the right last time around, orientating himself in the direction of Ohana. So yes, the 29 year old Sydney Croatia defender was again Australia’s ‘right-sided centre-half’. Libero Yankos was said to be the team’s natural leader, and through his ability to maintain composure and organize the defence from his withdrawn position, he sure was an influental player in the Socceroos side. To his advanced left was Calderan, the 25 year old of Marconi, the reigning league champions, a player with his forte in the air rather than along the ground.
In midfield, the Australians had the highly energetic Alan Davidson working along the left hand side. While Paul Wade across from him needed to be very alert to Pizanti’s attacking intent, Davidson did not quite encounter such a threat from Cohen, and so he wasn’t required in a defensive capacity to quite the same extent. At least not for now. Wade had often been their go-to man for angled aerial balls against the Kiwis last week, as he was strong in the air despite his relatively average build. Wade of South Melbourne and Davidson of Melbourne Croatia made sure to elevate the Melbourne count in the away select.
The two players at the heart of the Australian engine room were Mike Petersen and Oscar Crino. The former was a team mate of Wade’s at club level, while Crino hailed from Footscray JUST, yet another Melbourne club. Petersen was a proper work horse, who would never shirk a challenge, and who would run and hassle for the full 90 minutes. He did seem to fit well in a tandem with the much more sophisticated Crino, whose playmaking ability was often in demand in a team of several industrious players. Crino could dictate the pace of the game, and he had fine vision and distribution. His size even made him a tricky opponent in duels, while he seemed to lack acceleration. So far, he’d seen plenty of the ball, and made decent use of it.
Sydney Croatia’s 25 year old forward Graham Arnold had been Australia’s centre-forward in their three matches earlier in the qualification, though he had needed to take a step back this time around in order to accommodate Eddie Krnčević. Arnold so far had struggled to make an impact, and was largely seen on the periphery of the action, probably not entirely comfortable with his different role. He would do some back checking, though if the ambition had been for him to pin Pizanti back inside his own half, he had not quite succeeded. Arnold was working in a somewhat withdrawn right-sided attacking capacity.
Krnčević was 28 years old by now, and was enjoying a fine campaign in the Belgian capital with Anderlecht. A powerful, strong centre-forward, he would relish to arrive on the end of crosses into the box, though this time around, as mentioned previously, he was up against a very tricky opponent in Alon. The latter would not let him out of sight, and Krnčević had not excelled in the opening half hour in Tel Aviv.
As for Frank Farina, the 24 year old was drifting towards the left hand side of attack, often seeking to be on the ball, and at times making fine use of it, inviting opponents to tackle him. His positioning seemed to cause some confusion among the Israeli defenders, among whom Iluz was the one attending to him. Farina, however, was operating directly in the territory of host right-back Cohen, and so the latter would from time to time need to abandon his territory to allow Iluz space to deal with his assignment. He had speed and flair, Farina, and had so far proved a bigger threat than his front partners.
Approaching 35 minutes, most of the play happens outside of either penalty area, as neither team is able to string a number of passes together. While the tension is there throughout, quality at times is absent, though you don’t want to blink and risk missing a sudden injection of pace and a turn of events, because you’re left with a feeling that there are incidents waiting to happen. A poorly executed tackle from Farina, a ‘forward’s tackle’, had caught Ohana and brought him to the ground halfway inside his own half in 33 minutes, and this had resulted in the first yellow card of the game for the Australian striker. However, it is not quite this kind of incident which we’re looking for.
Through to half time
Israel had looked frail and riddled with nerves during those opening 20 minutes, where they were quite underwhelming, with Australia dominating possession and arriving at no less than five efforts goalwards. However, they had slowly grown in confidence as they had shaken off those nerves from earlier and realized that the Australians were there for the taking. Sinai had gradually got a stronger grip in midfield, and he had let the ball do the talking through his left foot, distributing well, and sending both his forwards out into the channels, maintaining the visiting central defenders wide in the process.
Arriving at goalscoring opportunities had not been simple, though. The hosts hadn’t had any such until the 43rd minute, when a Pizanti cross from the left had only been headed out into dangerous territory for Sinai to pick up and strike first time, half volley, albeit with his weaker right foot. He had hit the ball well enough from 22 yards out, but it had ultimately cleared the bar after touching on both Crino and Yankos. However, Olver had already been committed, so had it been allowed to travel freely, it could’ve spelt danger.
There’s a minute and 44 seconds of added time, and while Australia had looked very comfortable for large chunks of the opening half, they had come under a bit of pressure towards the end, when another couple of right wing Sinai corners would eventually see Alon head down for right-back Cohen, of all people, to have a close range effort blocked by Olver. What on earth Cohen was doing inside the six yard area is up for debate.
Halfway through the game, the score’s locked at 0-0.
As the two teams are back out on the pitch for the start of the second half, which will kick off with the visitors playing from left to right as we view, we’re soon learning that there has been no changes in personnel at either end. It is not unreasonable to assume that both parties had been relatively pleased with how the first half had progressed, although with the Israelis growing stronger towards the latter stages, it could well be they who were feeling the more confident at this stage. Krnčević, who in fairness had probably had a disappointing opening 45 minutes, gets the second half going as he pokes the ball to Farina.
Israel play, Australia threaten
It had taken the hosts some 20 minutes of the opening period to realize that the Australians weren’t supernatural creatures. They had started the game so passively, though they harbour few intentions of doing likewise now after the break. It is they who are with their tails up, and they interpass well, and have movement enough off the ball to provide options for any player in possession. While Sinai was proving useful towards the end of the first half, he appeared to continue in much the same vein now, making good use of the ball and looking to take people on from his advanced midfield position.
Despite their upper hand in terms of open play, Israel have so far struggled to carve out goalscoring opportunities. They show few signs of an immediate improvement in this regard, as they only have a shot well over the bar from libero Amar 28 yards out inside the opening ten minutes or so. Ohana, though, who had shown in glimpses evidence of his quality on the ball, though not in a consistant manner, felt he had been impeded by Petersen inside the Australian penalty area on 49 minutes, though the referee would have none of it.
A draw would suit the Australians very well, but if they kept surrendering the initiative, that kind of outcome was not guaranteed. They would need to demonstrate some attacking intentions of their own, and they had been a bigger threat during the first half than the hosts. Crino drives a free-kick from the right hand channel goalwards, probably hoping that it could either take a deflection off someone or that the power in his effort would trigger a rebound from the ‘keeper, though Ginzburg made sure to push the midfielder’s shot-cum-delievery away into safe territory.
On 54 minutes, we’re close to a wonder goal, as a Crino free-kick into the area from the left hand channel is only headed out by Iluz into rebound territory, where right-sided midfielder Wade arrives first to the ball ahead of Pizanti. The fair-haired midfielder caught the ball cleanly with a left-footed volley some 20 yards out, and it only whizzled past the angle of the post and the crossbar a few inches away. The video replay revealed just how close Wade had come to scoring a spectacular opening goal from his weaker foot.
Despite the amount of free-kicks and feisty duels so far, the game had seemed to be played in fine spirit. There appeared to be little in terms of mal intent, and despite the number of times the West German referee had needed to make use of his whistle, the only poor incident had been Farina’s tackle on Ohana. On 56 minutes, there’s a second booking of the afternoon, when Šavor has his name taken for cynically bringing down Rosenthal as the striker attempts to latch on to a clever little throughball from Sinai. The Yugoslav-descent defender was having a tricky time in trying to keep the powerful forward quiet. The card was well merited.
Israel maintain their upper hand
The hosts show plenty of tenacity, and they are often first to the ball, making the visitors look second best for most of the opening quarter of an hour after the restart. Amar leads by example from the back with his ability in reading the game and cutting off passes, while Klinger has found an appetite for strong tackling in midfield, something which Crino gets a taste of. Sinai’s desire to drive forward ball at feet and look for options ahead of him causes worry in the visitors’ ranks, and it is the captain next to have a pop from inside the area when Rosenthal has got the better of Šavor near the byline and angled his pass back. Yankos takes the effort dead in his face. Plenty of battle, plenty of spirits among both sets of players.
It is disappointing how the visitors fail to attack with any cohesion as the second half unfolds. They had looked so confident in the early stages, but were now mere shadows of themselves. In midfield, Israel were applying pressure, predominantly through Klinger/Davidi and the two wide men, who by now were more working along the midfield flanks than in any kind of defensive capacity. Cohen along the right had rarely crossed the halfway line until the latter stages of the first half, but he had much more attacking freedom after the break. And with scarce movement from their forwards, among which Arnold was still struggling to find his position, Crino and Petersen found few options when they enjoyed some rare moments of midfield possession.
20 minutes after the restart, a free-kick midway inside the visitors’ half is played low by Sinai to Ohana, who in turn attempts to find Rosenthal inside the area with a quick pass. Alas, from the visitors’ point of view, the ball’s path is blocked by the unfortunate Davidson’s hand from his foot, and so the observant referee immediately opts to signal for a penalty kick. Cue massive protests from the Australian players, among which few had probably not even noticed the handball. Mr Neuner was obviously not going to change his mind, and after some pretty hefty protesting, Ohana can tuck the spot kick away high into the roof of the net from his left boot for a 1-0 home lead. It is a goal which was probably deserved on the balance of play, although Olver had not really had much to do until then. It was a massive goal in terms of the group standings.
The question after a goal is usually whether the team which had been dominating the half up until then should continue in the same vein or not: Go forward in search of a second, or rather sit back and protect what they had got? Well, in this case, you do not get the feeling that the Israelis wish to retract back inside their own half. Or at least not intentionally. Once they’ve dealt with a low shot towards the near post, albeit from an angle which never favoured the shooter, from Farina, Israel do accept the opportunity to run a transition in which Pizanti along the left remains opportunistic. Having been played in by Rosenthal, though, the wide left man is unable to keep his attempted cross on the pitch when under pressure from Crino.
There’s also a question how the opponents respond. Australia had been on the back foot for most of the second period, and suffering a goal against under such terms must be a difficult issue to deal with psychologically. They would need to find energy and inspiration from somewhere in order to claw their way back into the tie, as such a short qualification campaign hardly tolerates any set-back. While a loss would provide a difficult onwards path, a draw would, in comparison, be the complete opposite.
With the Alon/Krnčević battle often ending in favour of the tall host defender, the referee offers the Australian striker some respite when a long goal kick by Yankos is flicked on by Arnold, and Krnčević is awarded a free-kick after some rough handling from Alon. The game is 72 minutes old, and an attacking set-piece offers the visitors a chance to apply pressure on the Israeli defence. Some 28 yards away from goal, slightly to the right, surely a cross looks a better option than a direct shot. Crino looks to want to swing one in, but then Yankos steps up and blasts a shot goalwards and just inside the upright. The Australian TV commentator thinks the captain’s effort has hit the side-netting, until he realizes only a moment later that “it’s gone in!”. Once again, the commanding defender has come to the Australians’ rescue. This is already his fourth goal of the current World Cup qualification. Certainly not a bad record for a central defender. One apiece!
Further plot twists?
Having lost their so hard-earned and precious lead less than six minutes after securing it, Israel needed to go again. They had a double-header ‘Down under’ ahead of them, and would wish to travel being top of the table. There’s a chance to muster something when Šavor carelessly tugs Rosenthal back to the right outside his own area. Sinai drives one in low with the outside of his left foot from the resulting free-kick, and only sees the ball evade the far post by half a yard. It had touched on an Australian player on its way and it resulted in a corner, when a bigger touch could so easily have seen the ball end up in the back of the net.
The game had kicked off in bright afternoon sunshine, though by now, it is almost completely dark, and the quality of the footage leaves a lot to be desired. Not just is there low quality, but the tape will also endure plenty of stops right through to the full-time whistle, so fluency is even more difficult to obtain for us viewers than it is to the two sets of players out on the pitch. With eleven minutes left for play, the Israeli management team decides to bring on forward Eli Driks, who had only been omitted from the starting line-up late. The strong-looking substitute replaces midfielder Davidi in what is clearly an attempt to intensify the search for that winning goal.
The substitution doesn’t seem to have any immediate effect, or at least not to the advantage of the home side. In introducing Driks, they had gone 3-4-3, something which deprived them of some midfield steam, as Davidi had provided plenty of legs throughout the game. While Driks went into a centre-forward position, Israel were now with just Klinger and Sinai in the centre of midfield. Momentum rather seemed to swing in favour of the visitors, who looked more comfortable in possession without Davidi breathing down their necks.
Israel’s wide left man Pizanti had been a fine outlet along the flank for most of the game, but with less than nine minutes left for play, he is unfortunate as Farina trips him and he seems to twist his ankle in the process. This requires some medical attention for the England based player, whom they soon discover is unable to carry on. A second host substitution in the space of four minutes occurs as Eli Cohen, a 28 year old left-sided player of Hapoel Tel Aviv, enters the fray to see out the remaining game time. It is a straight swap.
Full time looming
Alas, the tape from the game struggles badly towards the final moments. Reading much sense from the last five or six minutes is nearly impossible. The final catch which any goalkeeper was seen doing was when Ginzburg easily gathered a downward Krnčević header from long range after Crino’s right wing corner on 81 minutes, though later we know from game information and facts that Australia will round the fixture off with just ten men. This has fortunately been captured, though, as we see Šavor play a poor pass straight into an accepting Rosenthal, and as the forward attempts to burst past him down the left, his marker clatters into his hip and brings him down. In trying to rescue himself, Šavor also goes to the ground and claims injury, though it hadn’t helped him much. A second yellow card saw him walk.
We furthermore know that Australia had brought on defender Graham Jennings in the wake of the sending off, although we do not have any video verification of that substitution. Farina had gone off. This happened with just about a minute of regulation time to go. There’s also some late commotion when a spectator makes it on to the pitch just before the full-time whistle, upon which he is led away by police and security. This really rounds the action off, as we see Mr Neuner signal the end to proceedings.
Australia had started the game in bright fashion, while the home side had been looking riddled with nerves, unable to maintain possession, and seeing the visitors line up five attempts at goal in the first 20 minutes. That is around when Israel wake up from their hibernation, and they gradually eat their way into the game. Still, the opening 45 minutes are shaded by the visitors, with little in terms of trouble happening in front of Australia’s ‘keeper Olver at all. Ginzburg’s major involvement had been stopping Yankos’ fifth minute free-kick.
The game swings even stronger in favour of the Israelis in the second half. They boss their visitors, although without really creating any big opportunities themselves. Wade comes the closest to scoring, when a spectacular first time volley clears the post by a few inches only. Then Davidson concedes a penalty which is dispatched in style by Ohana to give the Israelis what was, at that point, just about a deserved lead, although they failed to hold on to the two points when visiting skipper Yankos blasted home a long range free-kick with less than 20 minutes left for play.
A late introduction of a third home forward failed to spark an impact, and it would appear as if the Australians saw the game out in a controlled manner, despite losing defender Šavor to a second yellow card with only a minute or so left. While a draw must have had the Socceroos elated, the atmosphere would have been clearly more subdued in the home camp.
1 Ginzburg 6.9
any ‘keeper would be disappointed to concede from long range like Ginzburg did, though he might’ve claimed he saw it late. Other than that looked confident and secure, and his right arm save early from Yankos was firm
2 Cohen II 6.8
originally the right-back, but would at times let Iluz into his territory due to the latter’s handling of Farina. Popped up inside the opposition’s penalty area when there were set-piece delieveries, and had a first half injury-time attempt at goal. Strong player, not particularly elegant on the ball
3 Amar 7.3
first and foremost caught the eye due to his interceptions, which came about thanks to his reading the game so well/strength in positioning. Also no mug in the air, and would not hesitate to release the ball quickly. Altogether a fine performance, barring a misplaced pass and unnecessary concession of a late corner
4 Klinger 6.8
important in winning back balls, but carried little influence with his team in possession. Tireless, and clearly an instrumental cog defensively
5 Iluz 6.6
brought in to handle Farina, and though he was out on deep water a couple of times with some rushed challenges, he acquitted himself alright. Could not live with Farina’s pace
6 Alon 7.4
dealt with Krnčević very effectively, and used his height and physical strength to defeat the striker in the air time and again. Did come forward for attacking set-pieces as well, but with no telling contribution
7 Sinai 7.1
with his team on the back foot in the opening 20 minutes, it took some time for him to stamp his authority on proceedings, but proved an asset from set-piece delievery, and also influental in his passing game and close control as the game wore on. Had a couple of fine attempts on goal, too
8 Davidi 6.7
looked to be having a personal battle with Arnold, while he was offering very little in terms of possession. Plenty of midfield legs, and vital in his closing down work. Sacrificed late on for a third striker
(17 Driks –
brought on as an extra attacker when Israel went in search of a winner. Not a whole lot of evidence of his contribution, thanks to the poor video material late on. A sizeable player, he seemed to take up a centre-forward position)
9 Pizanti 6.8
had alledgedly played a starring role against New Zealand, and so the opponents were well aware of his forward runs and crossing ability. Found Wade a tough opponent, but still at times looked a threat, especially in transitions. Off with injury
(12 E Cohen –
filled in along the left after Pizanti’s injury, and not seen apart from committing a foul on Wade)
10 Ohana 6.9
quick and tricky, but seemed to switch off at times, something which saw his movement limited. On the end of a cynical first half tackle by Farina, and did not always seem best pleased with the powerful challenges from his marker. Blasted home his penalty in style
11 Rosenthal 7.0
fully committed performance, and never gave his marker a moment’s peace. Still, he lingered too much in wide positions in order to prove a goal threat. Also gave himself to the cause in chasing back
1 Olver 6.9
no chance with the penalty, and other than that left a secure impression, also when coming for crosses, where he opted to push the ball out of harm’s way
2 Šavor 6.2
struggled to contain the lively Rosenthal, and eventually had to walk following two yellow card offences. Did not look confident, and paid the price
3 Davidson 6.8
again one of the more energetic Australians, though he had a number of stray passes from his left foot. Played his part in transitions, but as the game progressed he mainly had to focus on defensive duties. Very unfortunate in conceding the penalty for handball
4 Yankos 7.7
a true captain’s performance by the libero, who put in a shift. Threw himself into challenges, always fully committed, and obviously drew the plaudits for his stunning free-kick goal. Could even have scored early in the game, but for Ginzburg’s save. Hardly put a foot wrong
5 Calderan 6.9
Ohana hardly an ideal direct opponent for a player whose main strength is probably in the air, but Calderan did his best in not allowing his opponent much space or time on the ball, and also looked confident enough in possession himself
6 Wade 6.8
vital in stifling Pizanti’s attacking contribution. Was rarely allowed to show his strength in the air this time, but gave a workmanlike performance and added fine balance with his positioning along the right. Second half volley so close to the target
7 Farina 7.0
offered width and inpredictability along the left, and at times looked a threat with his pace. Failed to get over the ball when he was left unmarked at a first-half set-piece. Saw yellow for a ‘striker’s tackle’
(x Jennings –
arrived late, and no footage of him at all)
8 Petersen 7.0
committed, and saw plenty of duels from his role in the centre of the pitch. Even offered some fine off the ball runs, and won a couple of attacking free-kicks. Vital in his role to let Crino provide the midfield flair
9 Arnold 6.3
Australia failed to make use of his main assets this time around, as he was rarely involved when they broke forward. Added an extra body in midfield when the hosts were pushing
10 Crino 6.9
displayed his ability in battle on several occasions, so his game was surely not all about flair and passing. With movement up top not always so impressive, he found it difficult to pick a telling pass this time around. Still sound in possession
11 Krnčević 6.3
ineffective, as he was well handled by his marker both on the ground and especially in the air. Could have moved about more, but seemed stationary. Disappointing performance from a player of his reputation