With Israel needing a win to stay in contention in group 6 of the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualification, they knew they needed to come out strong against Bulgaria.
And that they did.
After just 6 and a half minutes into the game, Israel went up 1-0, thanks to a clinical finish by Ben Sahar.
The Espanyol striker capitalized off a defensive miscue by Bulgarian midfielder Georgi Terziev, whose header went right to the feet of Sahar, who then took a touch, and then shot the ball on goal. The ball was then deflected by the outreaching foot of Terziev, and this helped propell the ball into the back of the net, and gave Israel the early lead.
17 minutes later, Israel scored again, thanks to a beautiful passing sequence that sliced through the Bulgarian defense. Left back Avi Rikan passed the ball into the middle to center midfielder Bibras Natcho, who then played the ball down the left flank to a racing Rikan.
Rikan caught up to it, and with a first time cross from the left, put it right to the feet of Sahar in the middle of the box, who passed the ball into the lower right corner of the net in the 24′ minute. Bulgarian ‘keeper Ivan Karadzhov didnt even have a chance.
7 minutes later in the 31′ minute, Sahar and Israel had a chance to go up 3-0, and for him to complete a hat trick. A very long free kick from Israel goalkeeper Ariel Harush took a long bounce, and Sahar ran onto it, and got his foot on the ball right before Bulgarian goalie Karadzhov could block it.
However, this time, Terziev was the hero, who saved the from rolling in right as it was in front of the goalline.
But for Israel, they would not be stopped, and just seconds later, they were up 3-0, and the game was surely in the bag well before half-time.
Omer Damari dribbled down the right wing, and into the box, before sending a low cross into the middle towards Idan Vered. Vered put a low shot on the ball, that was fast, but right at Karadzhov. But Karadzhov commited a major blunder, and the ball went right through his legs, and into the back of the net, to give Israel a three goal lead after just 32 minutes.
The score would stay this way through half-time and until the 57’ minute, where Ben Sahar completed his hat trick, and completed the Israelis rout over the Bulgarians. Sahar beat the offside trap off along ball from the defense, and was 1 v. 1 with the goalie, who fell for Sahar’s fake shot, and Sahar dribbled adriotly around the keeper and passed the ball into the back of the goal to ensure Israel’s victory and give then a 4-0 lead.
The Israelis would finish the game with that scoreline, and this emphatic win has helped keep them alive in the race to qualify for the UEFA European U-21 Championships in the summer of 2011.
They are in a three way tie for 1st in the group with 10 points after 5 games. (3-1-1)
Israel U-21 next plays Sweden on June 4, 2010, in Israel. Sweden (10 pts) is currently leading group 6 by head to head matchup with Montenegro (10 pts).
If Israel wants to win the group, the next match is a vital one, and it might be the one people will look back to if Israel fails, or succedes in qualifying, as being the turning point.
Hopefully Israel U-21 will win, and keep up the great form that they are in.
In the Israel soccer circles, there has been more excitement about Assulin. He can run better and faster with the ball, creating exciting moments. But is Sahar going to be the better player?
At this point, I would venture to say that yes, he will be. While Assulin is faster, Sahar is stronger and smarter on the pitch.
Sahar is only a year and a half older than Assulin, but is already established as one of the two best players, along with Yossi Benayoun, on the Israel National Team. When the EURO’12 qualifiers begin next September, Sahar, still only 20 years old, will be the best player in Israel.
Assulin is 18.5 years old, and at this age, Sahar was already a regular on the National Team and scored a pair of goals against Estonia. Meanwhile, Assulin is still struggling to make himself into a premier player on the U-21 team.
Sahar is a striker and Assulin is a midfielder, so naturally he should score more, but one would expect that Assulin would have scored at least one goal for the U-21 team. He creates exciting opportunities, but doesn’t do enough with them, eventually running into one of the opposition’s defenders who is capable of stopping him.
Assulin needs to learn that he can’t play against world-class talent the same way he played against lower opposition all his life. He won’t be able to run around everyone and score. He needs to see the field better and use his teammates more.
Assulin has more potential than Sahar, but he will need to make significant improvements prior to the beginning of EURO qualifiers and to make the National Team at least as a substitute before he can be seen as potentially superior to Sahar.
The Israel U-21 National Team plays a pivital match today at the Ramat Gan Stadium vs Bulgaria U-21.
Israel currently stands in 3rd place with 7 points from 4 games, after a 1-0 loss on Saturday against Montenegro. They are behind Sweden and Montenegro, who are tied for 1st with 10 points.
Israel beat Bulgaria right at the death of their first game, when Ben Sahar scored a 90′ minute winner. Israel won that game 4-3.
Israel: Ariel Harush, Avi Rikan, Rami Gershon, Dean Mori, Liroy Tzeeri, Almog Cohen, Bibras Natcho, Idan Vered, Gai Assulin, Omer Damari, and Ben Sahar
Bulgaria: Ivan Kardazhov, Pavel Vidanov, Vasil Bozhikov, Victor Genev, Nikolay Dyulgerov, Marion Ogneenov, Ismael Isa, Nikolay Petrov, Georgi Terziev, Todor Kolev, and Georgi Korudzhiev.
נבחרת ישראל: אריאל הרוש, אבי ריקן, רמי גרשון, דין מורי, לירוי צעירי, אלמוג כהן, ביברס נאתכו, עידן ורד, גיא אסולין, עומר דמארי ובן סהר.
נבחרת בולגריה: איבן קרדזוב, פאבל וידאנוב, ואסיל בויקוב, ויקטור גנב, ניקולאי דיולגרוב, מריאן אוגניינוב, איסמעיל עיסא, ניקולאי פטרוב, גיאורגי אילקוב טרזייב, טודור קולב וגיאורגי קורודזייב.