After last weekend’s New Zealand triumph against chief rivals Australia, the All Whites were hosting their second successive group stage qualifier. Could they put even the other undefeated team to the sword in Auckland? New Zealand’s solitary hope of finishing top of the group, which had seemed beyond them prior to last week, was victory by a margin of at least three goals, and then hope for a (no-score) draw in next week’s clash between Australia and Israel.
Even the visitors were, ideally, looking for a win by a three goal margin. A win by either a single goal or two goals would still see them lose out on the top rank finish should they lose by the slimmest of margin in Australia. Victory by three clear goals meant they could afford loss by a single goal margin in Sydney.
The opposite encounter had been the first game of the qualification group stage, and Israel had run out 1-0 winners in Tel Aviv on that occasion. Unfortunately, there’s barely any footage available from that game, while this fixture is available in full. Israel had travelled to New Zealand for what was their first away game of the qualification campaign.
The current standings:
Following last week’s impressive victory against Australia, New Zealand boss John Adshead and his assistant Dave Taylor must have been in confident mood, although they realized that the task ahead was mountainous. In order to finish top of the group, they would need to win by at least three goals, and then wait for the outcome of next Sunday’s clash in Sydney. Focus would, first and foremost, have been on securing the win. They must have acknowledged the difficulty of the proposition.
While Wynton Rufer, and also indeed his brother Shane, remained absent, thanks to their continued dispute with the New Zealand FA regarding travel arrangements (it was considered domestically that the Football Association was doing little more than an average job, and that their reputation was generally poor), the squad remained largely intact since the previous weekend. There was one exception, though: Pacy striker Darren McClennan had taken a whack to his left knee, and had withdrawn. This had seen Chris Riley recalled. The midfielder had featured in both of New Zealand’s two first group stage qualifiers.
While the squad did appear somewhat thin in the strikers’ department with McClennan absent, it was believed that either of Billy Wright or Noel Barkley could move into a forward role should need be.
The two Israeli managers, Itzhak Schneor and Ya’acov Grundman, had perhaps been slightly disappointed not to accumulate four points from their two home fixtures, as Australia had levelled the score in Tel Aviv after Eli Ohana’s penalty had given the hosts the lead. In the first tie of the group, they had defeated New Zealand thanks to Ronny Rosenthal’s early conversion. While they had most likely been in 4-3-3 for that game, they had opted for a five man defensive line against the Australians.
Israel had arrived early in Oceania in order to adapt. In fact, they had come even prior to last weekend’s ‘local derby’. Having seen a physically imposing New Zealand run out victorious against their old adversaries, Israel must have been slightly wary coming into this game.
There were three Belgium based players in Israel’s squad, and it is likely that all three had arrived somewhat later than the rest of the team. Perhaps with the exception of Shalom Tikva, who had not featured for his Standard Liège side since their 1-0 derby loss away at RFC Liège on Wednesday 29 March. Ronny Rosenthal, a team mate of Tikva’s at Standard, had not been in action in the Liège derby, though he had played the full 90 in their 2-0 home win against Lokeren on Saturday 1 April. Eli Ohana had featured at club level as recently as Wednesday 5 April, when his Mechelen had won 2-1 at home to Sampdoria in the Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final first leg. Ohana had opened the scoring with a header, and also picked up a groin injury. This meant he was a doubt for this qualifier.
All eleven of Israel’s starters from the Australia home tie were once again available to the management duo (with that slight doubt remaining over Ohana’s injury). Since the win over New Zealand, big striker Eli Driks was definitely out of the squad.
It was also rumoured that captain Moshe Sinai had not been particularly keen on making the journey. His Hapoel Tel Aviv side were struggling both on and off the pitch, and there were said to be some ‘financial irregularities’ around Sinai’s persona. What this meant precisely is not clear.
44 year old Frenchman Claude Bouillet had been brought in as referee. While it would appear odd to have an officiating trio from a different confederation (Bouillet’s two assistants were French and Italian respectively), this had been the case also in the two most recent World Cup qualifications, at least for various matches containing both New Zealand and Australia.
Bouillet was an experienced referee on the domestic scene in France, where he had been a regular feature since the 1979/80 season, albeit internationally, he had only appeared once: A November 1985 friendly between Spain and Austria (0-0).
He had been in charge of a total of six continental tournament club fixtures so far in his career.
Another unusual occurence at qualification level was to have an officiating trio from more than one country. One of monsieur Bouillet’s assistants was Italian 45 year old Carlo Longhi, who would indeed be in charge of next week’s group decider between Australia and Israel. Mr Longhi had five international friendlies on his CV, where the most recent had been Greece’s 3-2 home win against GDR in March. The remaining linesman, Michel Girard, had refereed in three international friendlies the previous calendar year.
This was the sixth time the two countries had clashed in World Cup qualification, as it had occured also ahead of the 1970 and 1986 tournaments in Mexico. On the former occasion, Israel had gone on and proceeded to the tournament proper for the first and only time so far in their history. Those five previous encounters had yielded four Israel wins and just the one for the New Zealanders.
Not deemed matches of official status, it should still be noted that the pair had also come together in the qualification for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games football tournament. Israel had won both meetings, the latter of which had taken place here in Auckland on 27 March 1988.
Mount Smart in Auckland was the venue for the second successive Sunday. While it was very recognizeable thanks to its large grass banks, the stadium was also fitted with stands on two sides. The main stand was fairly impressive. This was from where the main television camera was angled. Opposite, there were terraces in addition to the small stand towards the left.
It is difficult to say what the capacity was at the time of this fixture. The official attendance was slightly down on the previous Sunday’s figure, with 3200 paying spectators seeing a 140 man decrease. While this number was probably somewhat lower than what had been expected, the blustery conditions would have to accept some blame.
New Zealand (4-5-1)
|1 Clint Gosling||28||Sydney Olympic|
|2 Michael Ridenton||sub 29′||21||Mount Wellington|
|3 Malcolm Dunford||26||Wellington United|
|4 Garry Lund||22||Christchurch United|
|6 Ricki Herbert (c)||27||Mount Wellington|
|10 Noel Barkley||28||Mount Wellington|
|13 Chris Riley||sub 74′||24||North Shore United|
|14 Billy Wright||28||Mount Wellington|
|16 Robert Ironside||75′||21||Sydney Olympic|
|17 Fred de Jong||12′||25||Marconi|
|18 Thomas Mason||28||Mount Wellington|
|7 Tony Levy||on 74′||29||Mount Wellington|
|11 Danny Halligan||on 29′||24||Christchurch United|
|x Frank van Hattum||30||Mount Maunganui|
|x Rodger Gray||22||Mount Wellington|
|x Nigel Debenham||29||Mount Wellington|
|1 Bonni Ginzburg||24||Beitar Jerusalem|
|2 Avi Cohen II||26||Beitar Jerusalem|
|3 Yehuda Amar||25||Hapoel Jerusalem|
|4 Nir Klinger||sub 71′||22||Maccabi Haifa|
|5 Shlomo Iluz||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|6 Nir Alon||25||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
|7 Moshe Sinai (c)||23′||28||Hapoel Tel Aviv|
|8 Efraim Davidi||29||Hapoel Be’er Sheva|
|9 David Pizanti||sub 62′||26||Queens Park Rangers|
|10 Shalom Tikva||23||Standard Liège|
|11 Ronny Rosenthal||25||Standard Liège|
|12 Yaron Parselani||on 62′||30||Beitar Tel Aviv|
|14 Eli Ohana||on 71′||25||Mechelen|
|x Ya’acov Asayag||30||Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv|
|x Eitan Aharoni||26||Maccabi Haifa|
|x Nir Levin||27||Hapoel Petah Tikva|
We enter proceedings as the New Zealand national anthem, ‘God defend New Zealand’, is about to be performed, and we can see as the on-pitch camera closes in on the home side’s players that there appears to be a considerable amount of wind. The previous Sunday had been a sunny afternoon in Auckland, whereas it clearly is more blustery on this occasion.
A confidently-looking John Adshead takes his seat next to his assistant Dave Taylor on the New Zealand bench, and as the toss of the coin is about to be made by the French referee who has been brought in to take charge, the two team captains, Ricki Herbert of New Zealand and Moshe Sinai of Israel, shake hands. Herbert appears to have won the toss, and opts to play into the wind in the first half, something which brings about a switch of sides for the two teams.
It is the visitors who will kick the game into action through Sinai, one of the Israeli side’s most influental players, and striker Ronny Rosenthal. Off we go.
Since the New Zealanders had given a fine and not least very spirited account of themselves only last week, it was far from exaggerate to expect more of the same. However, they had often been sitting deep against the Australians, inviting their visitors on to them. Could we be seeing more in terms of possession from the hosts this time around?
The early indications suggest a cautious ‘yes’ as a reply to that question. It rather appears to be the Israelis who thread the waters a bit tentatively at first, monitoring precisely what it is that they’re up against. Naturally, the visitors must have been impressed at how New Zealand had dealt with Australia, and while a win here would be a massive step towards securing first place in the group, this would still go until the final day.
We have, prior to this tie, only had one chance to see this Israeli team in action, and that had been in their home draw against the Australians. They had probably just shaded that game in terms of dominance, while having defeated today’s opponents in the group’s opening fixture. Having won no less than thrice against New Zealand over the past year, they must have had a certain level of belief in themselves.
Against the Australians at home, Israel had worked in a 5-3-2 formation, offering their pair of full-backs to come forward and add some width to an otherwise fairly narrow midfield. The two wide defenders remained the same: Avi Cohen, mark II, along the right, and England based David Pizanti to the left. The former was a strong, powerfully-built man who seemed very awkward to be confronted with in challenges. He looked sound on the ball, and was also an aerial asset. Pizanti opposite from him was more an athletic type, and he was more prone to keeping his flank than Cohen was. Early doors, though, neither were particularly willing in crossing the halfway line.
New Zealand’s most recent performance had included a highly combative central midfield pairing in Malcolm Dunford and Robert Ironside. The two were together in the centre of the pitch yet again, though they do not immediately click into action like they had done a week earlier. When the home side make advance, they either look for the long ball from the back via skipper Herbert’s right foot, or they enter via the flanks. In the early stages, it is right-sided attacking midfielder Billy Wright who is the more prominent. It looks like Pizanti will have his work cut out. Wright may not be your arch-typical skillful winger, but he came forward with determination and power.
Moshe Sinai had certainly assumed the playmaker’s role against the Australians, and the visitors’ captain showed once again from the word ‘go’ that he wanted to be on the ball. It did look, though, as he was playing slightly higher up in the pitch on this occasion, something which clearly had to do with Ronny Rosenthal operating as a lone striker. As it turned out, Eli Ohana’s replacement in the starting eleven, Israel’s only change since then, Shalom Tikva, had been given less attacking instructions, and Rosenthal’s team mate at Standard Liège had rather been implemented as a fourth midfield player, with a right-sided bias. This was what allowed Sinai more freedom.
There is a booking right after the ten minute mark, and it is issued to the home side’s striker Fred de Jong. He had received a forward pass just inside his own half, while Israel midfielder Nir Klinger was trying to hold him off. De Jong proceeds to turn Klinger, though as he’s about to accelerate ahead, he’s held back by the midfield man, and both tumble to the ground. As they land, de Jong appears to have hit Klinger either in the face or to the side of the head, and the latter claims to be in agony. The referee might have seen de Jong lash out with intent, and so the Frenchman displayed in the striker’s direction the yellow card. The New Zealand frontman does not seem to understand why he’s cautioned. Wright makes sure he lets Klinger know that he’s faking it.
Shortly after resumption, with Klinger not seriously hurt, there’s another come-together, this time inside the Israeli penalty area. Signs are that the game is heating up, as Malcolm Dunford follows through from Chris Riley’s header down, even if goalkeeper Bonni Ginzburg had already arrived to the ball, claiming it safely. While Dunford’s action prompted an angry reply from defender Shlomo Iluz, the situation does fortunately not escalate further. The game continues with a free kick in Ginzburg’s favour.
Visitors open the scoring
While Sinai had been the first player to test either goalkeeper, when his free-kick from the left side channel had been struck low straight into Clint Gosling’s arms on the quarter of an hour, the visitors arrive back inside the hosts’ half of the pitch only a minute later, and this time with greater intent. Davidi had won a free-kick inside his own half after a tackle by Ironside, and the ball went wide to Pizanti, who swung it forward from the halfway line, where Tikva got his head to it, arriving ahead of Kiwi left-back Tommy Mason. The Israel midfield man’s flicked header travelled into the area, where the alert Rosenthal was on hand to guide it into the back of the net following a faint touch with the outside of his left foot. The striker had done well to hold Garry Lund off prior to flicking it past Gosling. Huge goal!
It says about a team’s character that it depends on how they react after going behind. New Zealand had shown a week earlier that they had plenty of determined players within their camp, and though they shortly after falling behind conceded another shot at goal, again from goalscorer Rosenthal, who was allowed to take aim with his left foot 20 yards out, an attempt which went straight at Gosling, they were quickly back on level terms. Chris Riley, who had come into the team since the Australia game, chipped a ball into the box, where Ironside challenged Pizanti for it. The ball broke loose to Wright, who connected with a low, first time effort that he drilled into the back of the net with his right foot, despite libero Yehuda Amar’s attempt at blocking. 20 minutes gone, one apiece!
So with less than half of the first 45 minutes gone, there’s already two goals, and obviously there’s everything still to play for. The Australians, too, would have been keen spectators, certainly hoping for either a home win or a draw to aid their own plight, and they’d have felt that there were more goals in this tie. Israel had already had three efforts on target to New Zealand’s solitary, and the home side did perhaps not look so assured as they had done against Australia.
A run through the New Zealand line-up
There was just the one change since last time around for both teams, though both had indeed tweaked their numbers combinations slightly. New Zealand had been in 4-4-2 against their neighbours, though on this occasion, with Chris Riley the player who had come into the side in the absence of injured striker Darren McClennan, they had opted for a 4-5-1 variant in which Riley had a pretty attacking midfield role. He had previously in the qualification worked in a more defensive midfield capacity.
An ever-present for the Kiwis was Clint Gosling between the sticks. The Australia based player had perhaps not always looked entirely confident, though he had shown last week just how good he could be when he was at the top of his game. New Zealand would once again need their number 1 to excel. He had failed to cope with Rosenthal’s slight touch for Israel’s goal, though other than that he had dealt confidently with the visitors’ two other efforts.
The four at the back were identical to last week: Michael Ridenton at right-back, captain Ricki Herbert as the more withdrawn of the two centre-backs, where his partner Garry Lund was keeping an eye on Rosenthal, and with Thomas Mason once again at left-back. Ridenton, 21, was predominantly playing it safe, and would not travel far inside the opposition’s half, even at times tucking in towards the centre depending on the situation. He gave a modest appearance. Mason opposite from him was more keen on crossing the halfway line, although he, too, was somewhat limited in his approach work. The New Zealand management team did not wish to risk too much, at least not in these early stages.
Thanks to the addition of Riley, the All Whites’ midfield now counted five members, and from right to left they were: Billy Wright, Robbie Ironside, Chris Riley, Malcolm Dunford and Noel Barkley. The former had just introduced himself, already netting his fourth of the qualification, in just four appearances. He was now joint leading scorer for New Zealand along with McClennan. There was still time for Wright to increase his tally. And while he did not give the impression of being a rebel of any sort, he alledgedly had fallen out with several of his managers at club level.
The duo of Ironside and Dunford had fought so well last week, and again they were paired in the heart of the Kiwis’ midfield. Both enjoyed making forward runs, and so neither accepted a holding role. They had a good few of the same qualities, although Dunford appeared to time his runs into the box to greater effect. Having said that, though, Wright would not have arrived at his goal had it not been for Ironside challenging Pizanti in the air before the ball dropped.
Riley’s inclusion as something of a player between midfield and the lone striker gave their midfield ‘V’ an inverted shape. Rather than sitting behind the central pair, Riley was operating in the ‘hole’. You could well be forgiven for dubbing the New Zealand formation 4-4-1-1. It was a surprise seeing Riley in such an attacking capacity, as he’d in his previous qualification inclusions been the more defensive alibi in centre mid. He was well built, and it did at times seem as if they were actively seeking to reach him in the air, for Riley to head on in a team mate’s direction.
Along the left hand side was the industrious Noel Barkley. Like Wright, Barkley, too, had the ability to feature up top, though thanks to his workrate, he was a decent inclusion to the left in midfield. He was also a set-piece taker, and despite Riley’s presence, Barkley continued to be first in line for left wing corners and free-kicks into the area. In addition, he proved once again to be valuable support to left-back Mason defensively, so it is fair to say he was yet another vital cog in Adshead’s set-up.
With no McClennan at his disposal, the manager had gone with the sizeable Fred de Jong as New Zealand’s solitary striker. While not someone chasing in behind the enemy’s lines, de Jong was rather a player they would look to for holding the ball up and bringing others into action, or indeed have him flick it on if he could get to the ball ahead of his marker, the tall and gangly Nir Alon. This was just de Jong’s, another one of the Australia based contingent in the New Zealand camp, second performance of the ongoing qualification, though he definitely brought other qualities to the team than anyone else who had featured. As they were looking for goals, though, the absence of McClennan was a gap to fill, despite his lack of fortune in the group stage.
Halfway into the opening 45 minutes, there’s a booking for visiting captain Moshe Sinai. The card was well merited, as he had, inexplicably, jumped into New Zealand’s Ridenton as the latter was attempting to escape from Davidi with the ball intact. In doing so, Ridenton had come inside from his right-back position, and then been confronted by Sinai in the centre-circle. The Israeli skipper had raised his boot and rammed the full-back in his left thigh with the studs. Ridenton needed attention before he could carry on. The referee then went on to have a chat with his linesman on the near side, his fellow Frenchman Michel Girard. Had monsieur Bouillet not seen who had jumped into Ridenton? Nearly two minutes after the incident, the referee finally approached Sinai, smiling (!), before he issued the yellow card.
The Israel eleven
With just the one change in playing materiell, the Israeli select barely deviated from what we had seen during their home tie against Australia. They still had Bonni Ginzburg in goal. The 24 year old Beitar Jerusalem custodian had so far looked a bit uncertain when coming off his line in attempts to claim the ball, though the goal apart, he had not really been tested for attempts on his frame. He did have a confident appearance, but perhaps did he still need to work on his decision-making as a goalkeeper.
In defence, just like in that game against the Australians, the two managers had lined up five players. From right to left, they were: Avi Cohen II (as to denote that he’s not identical with ‘the other’ Avi Cohen, the central defender remembered, for example, from his time in England with Liverpool), Nir Alon, Yehuda Amar, Shlomo Iluz and David Pizanti. As previously mentioned, Cohen was a tough customer, and someone who was even quite willing in open play to participate in the build-up of attacks. He had a tendency to try and contribute more in field than he did along the touchline, while his primary focus remained a defensive one. He would have various scraps with Noel Barkley along his side.
In the centre, Yehuda Amar was once again operating as their libero. An accomplished performer, Amar read the game well, and he had shown against the Australians that he was competent in the air. So far in this tie, he’d not been called upon to the same extent. He was the solitary player of Hapoel Jerusalem in the squad. He would also assist Ginzburg with goal kicks, and usually got good length on his efforts. As for Alon and Iluz, they had been designated man-markers last time out. Alon was this time clinging on to the sizeable Fred de Jong, whereas Iluz this time appeared to be slightly bemused by Chris Riley’s positioning. Not playing as an outright striker, Riley worked in the ‘hole’ between their midfield and single striker, something which did seem to have Iluz in two minds as to whether he should move further up field or stay behind in line with Alon. Clearly a no-nonsense player, this hesitancy in his whereabouts did not appear to suit Iluz very well.
Along the left side of the Israeli defence was the energetic Pizanti of London club Queens Park Rangers. The 26 year old certainly enjoyed a ‘wing-back’ tag, as on his day he would bomb forward at will, putting crosses in with his trusted left foot. Pizanti had so far not ventured across the halfway line a whole lot, just in accordance with his bosses’ wishes, it would seem, but one always had the feeling that he felt more confident if he were allowed to join in attack. He seemed to relish that freedom. So far on this occasion, he needed to stay focused on the task that was Billy Wright along his side.
While their formation three weeks prior had been 5-3-2, they had now pulled a further man into midfield, giving them a 5-4-1 shape. They did not have designated wide midfielders, as the idea could well have been to crowd out the home side’s central areas, though there were clearly two players with added defensive responsibility among the quartet, just as there were two with greater likelihood to contribute in operations further ahead.
The midfield pair towards the rear were Nir Klinger and Efraim Davidi. The former, of Maccabi Haifa, was the team’s youngest member at 22, and while he was not a highly visible player in the tactics and formation deployed by messrs Schneor and Grundman, it is not to say he was immaterial. Klinger would run himself into the ground for the cause of the team, and even on some occasions he was given increased freedom, something which meant he would be seen at least halfway inside the opposition’s half. Furthermore, he had a big throw on him, so whenever there was an opportunity to hoist the ball long into the opposition’s area, Klinger would be their go-to man. His partner Davidi, 29, was perhaps even a more anonymous figure, typically providing defensive legs in cover operations ahead of the defence. He appeared to have few incentives to take part in constructive play inside the New Zealand half. Still very much a vital performer in keeping the side tick.
Brought into the team for this occasion was Shalom Tikva. The Standard Liège player had suffered a few injury set-backs during his primary season abroad, and had, to the managers’ displeasure, been unavailable for their two previous qualifiers. Some even went as far as claiming that ‘if he’d been available against Australia, Israel would’ve won’. Featuring in the number 10 shirt, Tikva was working with a slight right-sided bias in midfield, looking to cooperate with both Cohen behind him, Sinai inside of him, and indeed with his team mate at club level Rosenthal ahead of him. His vision seemed fine, but he did not always execute a pass to perfection. Perhaps was Tikva still not 100 %.
The talismanic player in this Israel select was captain Sinai. The 28 year old represented struggling Hapoel Tel Aviv, and apparently he had not had the best of seasons on a personal level either, accused of financial impropriety as he had recently been. Still, perhaps getting away with the national side was just what he needed? This was valuable time off from his club’s relegation struggles, and he was a major player in this side with his delicate left foot and his craftmanship. A designated free-kick taker and the man most likely to demand possession inside the opposition’s half, Sinai was working in a central role with a forward focus. He did not do a whole lot of pressing, and his recent caution had perhaps come about in a moment where he was out of character. At least compared to what he’d shown thus far in the qualification.
Israel’s lone striker was Standard Liège’s 25 year old Ronny Rosenthal. He had scored the only goal of the game on these two teams’ last encounter, and with his pace, his power, enthusiasm and inpredictability, he was another major asset to the side. He was being monitored by the tall, yet at this level somewhat raw, Garry Lund, and Rosenthal had done well to keep his guard at an arm’s length for his opening goal. There had been indications of fine coexistence between Tikva and Rosenthal, and one felt that the latter always had it in him to make something happen when he received the ball.
The half has entered a pretty scrappy phase, with little going on in terms of enterprising play from either side. That said, there had been a promising moment for the visitors on 25 minutes, when several players had been involved in mounting an attack, although they were eventually blocked when Ironside put in a terrifically timed sliding tackle on Sinai as the latter was about to pull the trigger from close range. Not long after, there’s a first substitution of the game, when Ridenton, who had clearly felt the impact of Sinai’s studs on his thigh earlier, had to come off and be replaced by midfielder Danny Halligan. The latter had come off early himself during the loss in Australia, but was fit enough already last week, and had come on for Barkley during the home win against the same Australians. Would he slot directly into Ridenton’s position at right-back, or would we see some reshuffling?
One is left with the feeling that any attack in this period of the game is coming about more as a result of coincidence and individual effort than something conspired collectively. For the home side, Dunford has a shot on target from outside the area to the left easily gathered by Ginzburg, while Cohen is up for a left wing corner, swung outwards by Sinai’s left foot, and heads over from 12 yards. Had he been able to keep it down, it would have spelled trouble for Gosling, as he got plenty of power behind it.
New Zealand take the lead
Out of the blue, the home side are able to string together what is easily their best move of the game so far. And as a result, they stick the ball in the back of the net via Dunford’s head just after the 35 minute mark. They arrive inside the visitors’ half through left-back Mason, who works the ball across to Wright on the right hand side. He spots Riley’s run across the area, and plays the attacking midfielder in. In turn, and upon receiving Wright’s pass, Riley has seen substitute Halligan make a fine forward run from what is indeed the right-back position, which he had inherited from Ridenton, and Halligan pings a first time cross from just inside the area, par with the six yard box. It reaches the back post, where no one has tracked Dunford’s run. Effortlessly, the New Zealand hero in these past few weeks heads home his third goal in successive matches. Splendid team effort for 2-1!
Just like Israel had failed to hold on to their lead earlier in the half, it is now New Zealand who switch off and see their opponents equalize. The ball is in the back of the net a mere two and a half minutes after Dunford’s goal, and it ends up there courtesy of Klinger’s right foot. Davidi had won a header against Ironside midway inside his own half following another pretty pointless up and under from Herbert, something which was beginning to look like a trademark of his, and Klinger carried the ball across the halfway line, playing it on to Sinai, before continuing his run into the heart of the New Zealanders’ territory. While Halligan had originally attempted to chase Klinger, the substitute became ballwatching, stopping in his track and focusing on Sinai instead. However, there’s no pressure on the visiting captain, and with Klinger left unattended through the centre, it is a simple task to play the latter through, and with the Kiwis’ defence at sixes and sevens, Israel’s number 4 slots the ball into the back of the net for 2-2.
Through to half time
The half continues through to 46,19 before the referee signals his whistle one last time. In the trail of the latest goal, there had once again been misplaced passes and free-kicks dominating. It is not unlikely that the wind was playing a role, and even the surface of the pitch did not appear to favour the players. Despite the absence of quality for large spells, the half had been relatively entertaining to the perception of the neutrals (if there were any). New Zealand had shown efficiency in scoring from what had essentially been their only two attacks during the first half, while Israel, despite probably just shading possession, had been a little careless at the back.
With four goals arriving before half time, one could not help but thinking that the second half would contain further net bulging. How would the respective managers address their teams at the interval, though?
Alas, the final half of the tape does not contain anything in terms of pre-kick-off ambience. Instead, we’re straight into the action, although one eventually learns that there’s not many seconds of action missing. About ten, we make it.
While New Zealand are far off their target of a three goal win, they have probably realized that this is an objective too ambitious, and so just trying to go for the win must be their adjusted aim. They will play with the wind behind them for the final 45. Should, however, the Israelis win by a three goal margin, they could afford to lose by a single goal in Sydney next week, and still progress through to the intercontinental play-off finals against South American opposition. A draw, as it currently stood, meant that another draw against Australia would also secure top spot. While a large winning margin for either side appeared unlikely at this stage, surely, the visitors would be looking to avoid defeat. Should New Zealand win, they would have lent their neighbours a major hand ahead of the final qualifier.
Early second half phase
The severity of the wind does not appear to have diminished during the half-time break; rather the opposite. The linesman on the near side’s flag (it is Michel Girard on the near touchline, incidentally) displays the force which the gales provide. It is Israel’s turn now to try and play into the wind, and anyone who has ever played a bit of football knows how facing stiff elements can affect your psyche. As it turns out, it is the home side which does indeed look the more spirited in the early second half exchanges, and their second goalscorer, Malcolm Dunford, has rediscovered his vigour and enthusiasm from last Sunday. The New Zealand central midfield man enters challenges at will, and is also the reason for why Avi Cohen needs some attention seven minutes in, as Dunford had caught him on his way to closing Alon down. The visitors’ right-back must have some medical attention. However, Dunford embodies the home side’s spirit at the start of the final 45 minutes. Another challenge sees Klinger emerge with pain.
There is no changes in personnel either way, and also no major tactical tweaks within either team. Kiwis substitute Halligan has done alright as a makeshift right-back, although he’d failed to track Klinger’s run for the equalizer. He’s someone who can rarely be faulted for effort, and he does appear to click well with Wright along his side. The pair combined for the latter to send a ball forward for de Jong to flick on, and Ironside made a run through the centre. His pace didn’t favour him against the pair of Israeli defenders, and so he needed to check back, before eventually firing tamely from 22 yards, straight at Ginzburg.
Israel’s reply is to try and hit the All Whites on the break, and they leave it to their three most forward players to try and carve something out. On 55 minutes, the pair of Standard Liège players in the visitors’ ranks, Tikva and Rosenthal, attempt to combine, although Halligan this time reads the former’s clever little ball into the area before Rosenthal can get to it. Sinai’s role appears to be transporting at pace, and he’s usually fed the ball by either of the two more defensive midfielders, Davidi or Klinger.
Home side with the upper hand
It is fair to say that the Kiwis do exert a certain amount of pressure as the game is coming up to its hour mark. Not that they’re arriving at big goalscoring opportunities, at least not so far, but they are the ones looking the more likely to make something happen, even if they do appear to be a little exposed at the rear of their midfield when the Israelis go on the counter. The away side have both pace and skill in the trio consisting of Tikva, Sinai and Rosenthal, and with Dunford pushing forward a lot from his central role, a lot of responsibility now rests on Ironside as the more holding midfield man, and indeed the New Zealand defence, where Lund is still doing his best to keep up with Rosenthal.
Riley has not looked entirely comfortable in his advanced midfield role, and for large spells, the game appears to pass him by. He does reintroduce himself around 57 minutes, when he picks up a second ball just outside the Israeli penalty area, only to lob it straight into Ginzburg’s arms. A minute and a half later, he’s operating in the left sided channel, where he proceeds to ping a ball into the area for Dunford to swivel and hit a left-footed volley straight at the ‘keeper. Alas, Dunford can’t get any pace behind his effort, but it was still a piece of technical ingenuity to connect so cleanly and get the shot on target.
On 62 minutes, we have the first Israeli substitution of the afternoon. And it would appear to be a somewhat defensive one, as Schneor and Grundman have opted to withdraw left-back Pizanti, who certainly didn’t play as attack-minded as he had proven in the past that he could, but he was still quite useful in case they should need to venture forward with more than just three or four men. There appeared to be nothing wrong with the England based 26 year old as he came off and was replaced by Yaron Parselani, a rugged 30 year old from Beitar Tel Aviv. A centre-back of trade, Parselani would in fact slot into Amar’s libero position, with the latter immediately heading out into Pizanti’s vacated left-back territory. Were the managers looking to add a bit of size into the heart of their defence? On Parselani, incidentally, SBS TV commentator Les Murray, an Australian, who was indeed the commentator for this very fixture, once dubbed Parselani ‘a most unpleasant man’ in a later article for the Israeli’s involvement in an incident with the Socceroos’ Gary McDowall in an Olympic Games qualifier back in ’88.
New Zealand’s direct set-piece route
They struggle to make an impact in this very phase of the game, do the visitors, and New Zealand try to take advantage of both the elements and also the fact that visiting goalkeeper Ginzburg is perhaps not always so secure when coming off his line in trying to claim aerial balls. There is one such occasion on 64 minutes, when Mason’s kick into the centre following a free-kick in the left hand channel is spilled by the ‘keeper. He had tried to come and claim when there was traffic ahead of him, with both his own recently arrived defender Parselani and the big Lund obstructing his path. Ginzburg did get a tame fist to it, only pushing the ball in the direction of de Jong, who was lurking ten yards out. Striking it first time with his left foot, de Jong’s half volley just cleared the bar by a slim margin. It could so easily have meant 3-2 for the home side. Just over a minute later, there’s almost a reprise, though Ginzburg’s aided out by his defence on that occasion.
While it had looked like the hosts were in the ascendancy, the pendulum all of a sudden swung in the other direction, as Israel lined up a couple of efforts on target, working Gosling in the process. The first of the pair had been a relatively mundane free-kick from distance by Amar, but when they win possession midway inside their own half, Israel, through Sinai and Tikva, go on one of their rapid breaks 69 minutes in. Thanks to a lack of organization centrally in the hosts’ ranks, the two attacking midfielders combine to set Rosenthal up to the left inside the area, and upon making it to the byline, the wily forward pulls the ball back for Tikva, who has made a whole-hearted run into the area, receiving the 45 degrees cut-back and closing in on Gosling from an angle. Tikva went for power more than precision, but Gosling was off his line and alert in diverting the ball away for a left wing corner, taking it right in the groin and needing a breather in the process. It was easily the visitors’ best chance since the restart.
Substitutions and a yellow
We’re half an hour into the second half, and the game is quite lively, which it has been for the last few minutes. Both teams have been able to create opportunities to move in front, and the general feel is that this will go to the wire regarding the outcome. We have a further couple of substitutions, one from each side, which completes both’s numbers. First on is Israeli striker Eli Ohana, who had started both their home qualifiers, but who had arrived in New Zealand later than the rest of the squad, thanks to his midweek exertions in the Cup Winners’ Cup. The forward replaced midfielder Klinger, as if to highlight the visitors’ desire to go and challenge for the win after all.
Three minutes after Ohana’s introduction, New Zealand make their second substitution when the ineffective Riley leaves the field of play to be replaced by right wing man Tony Levy. The 29 year old had now indeed featured in each and every of their six qualifiers, either starting or coming on. He had proved efficient with his crossing in the Chinese Taipei matches, while he’d not been quite as prolific in the group stage ties.
With Ohana on, Israel skipper Sinai was pulled back into Klinger’s slightly deeper midfield role, while the Mechelen player assumed a position more or less alongside Rosenthal. Tikva was now the lone attacking midfielder, so one did feel as if this was Schneor and Grundman’s attempt at securing both points. For the hosts, Levy did indeed move into right-sided territory, offering width where Riley had been picked up in the centre. Which move, if either, would come off?
The game had not been nasty in any way, with an exception for Sinai’s needless attack on Ridenton, although there had been some hefty challenges throughout. When we see referee Bouillet dish out a third warning of the afternoon, it happens more due to misfortune or clumsiness than anything pre-meditated from New Zealand midfielder Ironside. In trying to keep up with Rosenthal, who is about to accelerate down the right hand channel, Ironside accidentally clips the striker’s heels, and there can be little debate regarding the card.
Another chance goes begging
76 minutes: You can’t take your eyes off the game in risk of missing out on some of the action, and the next incident is another big chance for the home side to take the lead. A cleared ball from the Israeli defence found its way out to New Zealand left-back Mason, who swung it into the centre first time. Amar, now in the left full-back position, couldn’t get any conviction behind his attempt at heading the cross away, and Levy was on hand to pick up the pieces just inside the box to the right. He smartly used the outside of his right foot to direct a cross near to Ginzburg’s six yard area, where Dunford, the ever alert midfielder, arrived first to the ball, only to see it clear the bar by half a yard. It was ever so close, and the home side would’ve been forgiven for thinking that it was not going to be their day. Dunford alone had come close to scoring twice since his goal.
Israel fail to punish hosts on the break
By the time of that latest Dunford opportunity, New Zealand had definitely had the bigger opportunities to add to their tally, though in the next few minutes, Israel will be given various chances to break forward. The home side’s midfield is a relatively open green lung at this stage, with Dunford pushing forward and Ironside looking a bit leggy, and so, whenever it is that Israel can put a dent in the hosts’ forays forward, wide areas open up ahead of whomever carries the ball. No less than five times in the space of nine minutes do the team clad in sky blue hit the New Zealanders on the counter, though every time they waste the opportunity to even test Gosling. Their indecision inside the final third of the pitch is an appalling view, and how they failed to even fire an attempt at target almost beggars belief. Rosenthal, Sinai, Amar, Sinai again and Tikva are the chief culprits one after another.
Through to full time
Considering what was at stake for the Israelis, their lack of ruthlessness in the dying stages is quite peculiar to witness. New Zealand, well aware that they will never win by that necessary three goal margin, or probably even win at all, are conceding such an amount of space every time the visitors wish to accept the chance to come forward. While the hosts themselves had tried their best to make use of the newly arrived Levy along the right hand side, and he was looking lively, albeit at this stage sadly alone, perhaps with the exception of the big de Jong who never gave up the chase, Israel again broke forward a couple of times in time added on. Yet again they fail to agree when to release and where to run. Do they even wish that win? The prize for two points rather than the one which they’ve got on board is huge, but they simply can not get their final pass right. The last opportunity comes nearly four minutes into time added on, when Ohana makes it to the byline, from where he attempts to pull it back for his captain. Gosling’s feet are in the way.
More than four and a half minutes of injury time happens before the referee signals the end to the proceedings. It had been a lively, if not always brimful of quality, second period, where a draw was probably the right result based on actual opportunities and opportunities which never happened thanks to the visitors’ carelessness.
The game is end to end stuff. The first half contains four goals, and against the wind, the hosts are quite efficient. They come from behind to lead, then see the Israelis peg them back shortly after Dunford’s headed goal for 2-1, his third in three matches. After the break, New Zealand appear to have the better of the game, creating a couple of big chances for de Jong and Dunford, but after Ohana’s arrival from the bench, Israel time and again break away. However, they simply can not get the final pass right, and so the game peters out with two goals to each. It is a point which now sees Israel just need a draw next week in order to win the group.
1 Gosling 7.0
denied the visitors a winning goal in the dying stages, and had looked confident enough in most of what he’d had to do, especially on the line. Perhaps committed too early for the goals
2 Ridenton 6.5
gave a cautious impression in the short time which he got on the pitch. Didn’t have time to build confidence. Tucked into the centre for defensive set-pieces. Exposed to an ugly stamp, which soon saw him go off with an injured left thigh
(11 Halligan 6.8
terrific cross for 2-1, but became ball-watching minutes later as Israel equalized. Not a full-back by trade, but the way the visitors played, he was rarely exposed. Could perhaps have been more utilised to create width after the break)
3 Dunford 7.3
such an enigma, even if it took him a while to get going. Obviously scored their second, and came ever so close to netting also after the break. Put in some big tackles, and had a particularly spirited first 30 minutes of the second half
4 Lund 6.8
battled bravely with Rosenthal, but failed to contain him for the opening goal. Needed to run into the channels a lot, and was strong in the challenges where his back was to his goal
6 Herbert 6.7
was left mopping up if the ball travelled past Lund/Rosenthal, and positioned himself impeccably. However, his distribution, which too often consisted of aimless punts forward, was simply not good enough
10 Barkley 6.8
quite a useful two-way performance along the left hand side, although he could’ve provided greater attacking support in the spell when his team was dominant
13 Riley 6.3
he did play a big part in his team’s second goal, but other than that he often struggled to find his position, and didn’t always look comfortable in possession. Rarely involved after the break, and an understandable substitution
(7 Levy –
fine cross with the outside of his foot which almost saw Dunford net his second, and also put in another ball from the right, where he was positioned after coming on)
14 Wright 7.0
composed when striking the equalizer, and made sure to track back whenever it was necessary. Decent at keeping width along the right, where he kept Pizanti well in check
16 Ironside 6.7
always a player up for the battle, but with the game an increasingly open affair, it wasn’t really his type of circumstances. Terrific first half block to deny Sinai from close range, and generally tracked back well
17 de Jong 6.7
big battle all afternoon with Alon, and struggled to make an impact, especially in the air. Major second half opportunity with shot just over, but he’d had no time to adjust
18 Mason 6.9
well positioned defensively, and was at times given the opportunity to swing a ball over with his trusted left foot, even if he rarely made it far up field
1 Ginzburg 6.6
almost seemed to overrate his own aerial ability, and got into trouble a couple of times because of it. Also a bit hesitant in coming off his line for low balls in his direction
2 Cohen II 7.0
relished a challenge, but also quite useful in coming forward, and even an attacking threat from deadball situations
3 Amar 6.9
swept well, assisted with goalkicks, but was not so much in demand after the break, when the defence sat deep in the strong headwind. Moved out to left-back when Pizanti went off, and continued to look assured
4 Klinger 7.1
full of commitment and running in that central midfield role, and even ran through to slot home the late first half leveller from Sinai’s pass. Exposed to a big challenge from Dunford, which probably left its mark. Was substituted for more attacking options
(14 Ohana –
added a new attacking dimension with his swift running, but even he lacked necessary cutting edge in those late transitions)
5 Iluz 6.6
at times worked somewhere in between defence and midfield, and didn’t look so comfortable without a definite striker to attend to
6 Alon 7.2
contained the aerial threat from de Jong very well throughout, and that was pretty much his task on this occasion
7 Sinai 6.9
set-piece taker, but could not provide telling delivery this time, except from in open play, as he assisted Klinger for 2-2. Also lacked in precision in the latter stages when his team should’ve found a winning goal, although he would play slightly deeper after Ohana’s introduction
8 Davidi 6.7
covered plenty of ground, battled well, but at times became very deep, especially after the break. Happy to play it sideways and let others distribute
9 Pizanti 6.5
lost in the air prior to New Zealand’s equalizer, and didn’t always look so secure defensively. Even in coming forward he was somewhat muted, with Wright well aware of his attacking capability. Substituted, most likely for tactical reasons
(12 Parselani 6.8
came on in the libero role, and did what was asked of him at the heart of the defence, adding another big figure to defend aerially)
10 Tikva 6.7
showed some neat close control, and starred in some of their many late transitions, even if he, too, failed to provide the telling final pass. Drifted out of the game for periods
11 Rosenthal 7.0
tucked away his goal neatly, when he held Lund off well. Would often come into the channels, and should’ve been more convinging late on when Israel had so many opportunities on the counter