In a close game, Israel lost 3-2 to a clinical Ukraine side. The game started off well for Israel, and they nearly got an opening goal when Rami Gershon’s header flashed over the crossbar after Lior Refaelov had drawn a free kick. However, Ukraine grew into the game, and their effort paid off when the Ukraine won a penalty in the 17th minute. Andriy Yarmolenko turned with the ball and Rami Gershon tripped him in the box. Oleh Gusev cooly slotted the ball home giving the visitors the advantage. Israel came right back and tried to equalize, Lior Refaelov sent an excellent through ball to Elyaniv Barda, but he wasn’t able to finish from point blank range and instead shot over the bar. Barda then had an opportunity to send in Lior Refaelov or Yossi Benayoun for an easy score, but instead chose to chip the keeper, but got it all wrong with the ball going way over the crossbar. Barda’s final opportunity came when he had a direct header from six yards out, but was unable to keep the ball down, and the ball went over the crossbar. Near the end of the half, the Ukraine capitalized on a shocking mistake from Yuval Spungin. Spungin gave the ball away at the top of the 18 yard box to Oleh Gusev, who promptly passed the ball to Yevhen Konoplyanka for an easy goal at the 45 minute mark right before half time. This prompted changes at the break with Tomer Hemed, Eran Zahavi, and Ben Sahar, coming on for a lackluster Yossi Benayoun, an average Lior Refaelov, and a wasteful Elyaniv Barda. The difference was immediately noticeable, especially with Maor Melikson, who had an average first half. Melikson was causing the Ukrainians all kinds of problems. In the 55th minute it paid off when Israel got a soft penalty after a Ukrainian defender handled the ball the box. Tomer Hemed sent the keeper the wrong way to open the host’s account. Ukraine almost immediately responded with a sweeping move started and finished by Andriy Yarmolenko. The forward sent the ball out to the left wing, and was the recipient of the cross as he walked into the 18 yard box unmarked for an easy finish in the 61st minute. Just two minutes later though, Maor Melikson sent a defence splitting pass to Ben Sahar, who finished neatly with his left foot. Israel would continue to put pressure on the Ukraine subbing on Elad Gabai to replace and ineffective Yuval Spungin immediately after Sahar’s goal, and Omer Damari on for Almog Cohen, but it wasn’t enough to tie the game.
My thought’s on the game:
Israel defended poorly, especially in the first half, the whole back line looked nervous, and seemed unable to play the ball out from the back to the midfield players, and instead kept giving it away. Yuval Spungin and Rami Gershon were especially poor with both players making mistakes leading directly to all three goals. It was encouraging to see Israel come back in the second half, and Maor Melikson was unstoppable causing the Ukrainians all kinds of problems. Ukraine has a lot of really good attacking players, especially Andriy Yarmolenko, who was hard to deal with. Israel has given up 7 goals in its last 3 games, indicating there are severe problems with the defense. Yossi Benayoun should not be starting for Israel, he never came into the game and was subbed off at halftime. Until Israel is able to fix its defense it should forget about dreams of going to the world cup or the Euros.
Ben Sahar – 5 came on and scored a nice goal, but after that he lost out several times to opposition defenders
Lior Refaelov – 5 started nicely in the first half, made some nice passes, drew some fouls, but faded as the game carried on, subbed out in the 2nd half
Yossi Benayoun – 3 an un-captain like performance, was invisible for the first half and subbed out at the beginning of the 2nd half
Maor Melikson – 8 man of the match for Israel, kept them in the game when they seemed down, had an assist on the 2nd goal, created opportunities
Tomer Hemed – 5 well taken penalty, missed a couple of headers, caused the Ukrainian back line some problems
Almog Cohen – 4 had some good and bad moments, was ineffective in breaking up the Ukrainian attack
Bibras Natcho – 4 threatened from set pieces, contributed defensively, not enough overall
Tal Ben Haim – 2 set a poor example for the other defenders, looked nervous with the ball
Yuval Spungin – 2 was run ragged by the opposing players, directly and indirectly at fault for two goals
Dedi Ben Dayan -2 looked nervous at the beginning of the game, turned the ball over frequently, calmed down as the game carried on
Rami Gershon – 2 at fault for the first goal, played better as the game carried on, too inconsistent
Elad Gabai -5 had some nice touches, and crosses, was over matched physically and for pace
Eran Zahavi – 5 came in at the beginning of the second half, had a calming influence on the midfield
Shir Tzedek – N/A
Dudu Aouate – 5 made a couple of nice saves, could have made a save on one of the goals
Tomorrow Israel will taken on a strong Ukraine side in a friendly at the new HaMoshava Stadium in Petah Tikva. This will be the first game of Eli Guttman’s tenure and will be a test for his new tactics and formation for the Israel National Team. Guttman has stated he will call up the same players for most of the campaign unlike his predecessor Luis Fernandez who called up over 50 players. Let’s take a look at the two teams who will be facing off tomorrow.
Strengths: Ukraine has a strong national team, but the biggest strengths are its attacking players. The trio of Artem Milevskiy, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Yevhen Konoplyanka will pose a huge problem for Israel’s back four and midfield. In addition the experienced anchor Anatoliy Tymoschuk will attempt to dictate play and break up Israel’s attack going forward. Ukraine recently scored 3 goals against Germany which is no mean feat.
Weaknesses: In its last two games the Ukrainian defense has conceded 4 goals and is missing Dmytro Chygrinskiy, a center back, and its best goalkeeper Olekasander Rybka for this game. The defending has been poor and must improve for the Ukrainians to be successful in Euro 2012.
Strengths: Israel’s biggest strengths are in the midfield with Yossi Benayoun, Maor Melikson, and Lior Refaelov. Israel will depend on these players for creativity and goals. In addition Israel has been able to keep good possession of the ball during games in the last campaign.
Weaknesses: Undoubtedly the defense, the fullbacks especially for Israel offer no speed or skill with the ball and will need help throughout the game defending. In addition Israel is at a significant height deficit with no players in the midfield over 6 feet tall. Israel has had trouble with set pieces in recent years. In addition an overall lack of team speed will hurt Israel as they are constantly beaten for pace on the international level.
Conclusions: Israel will be under pressure for under much of the game, but will have opportunities to counter attack. However I think Ukraine is too fast too technical and too strong for Israel and they will ultimately win the game. I predict a 2-1 win for the Ukraine, but Israel will have chances to win or tie the game.
Watch the game here:
- Yossi Benayoun(Arsenal) Played 88 minutes in Arsenal’s 5-2 win over Tottenham
- Tal Ben-Haim(Portsmouth) played the whole game against Leeds in a 0-0 draw
- Gai Assulin (Brighton) came on in the 78th minute against Ipswich
- Dekel Keinan(Cardiff) did not play
- Beram Kayal(Celtic) out injured for the season
- Tomer Hemed(Mallorca) played 58 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Sociedad
- Dudu Aouate(Mallorca) played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Sociedad
- Itay Shechter(Kaiserslautern) is injured and did not play
- Almog Cohen(Nurnberg) came on in the 74th minute in Nurnberg’s 1-0 win
- Eran Zahavi(Palermo) did not play
- Eden Ben Basat(Brest) played the 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Marseille
- Ben Sahar(Auxerre) came on in the 86th minute in a 0-0 draw
- Gil Vermouth(De Graafschap) played 70 minutes and had an assist in his team’s 2-0 win
- Samuel Scheimann(SBV Excelsior) played a full 90 minutes and had in assist in his team’s 4-1 loss to Ajax
- Lior Rafaelov(Club Brugge) played 70 minutes in his team’s 3-0 loss to Genk
- Maor Buzaglo(Standard Liege) is out for the season due to injury
- Rami Gershon(Standard Liege)did not play
- Elyaniv Barda(Genk) came on in the 81st minute against Brugge in a 3-0 win
- Dor Malul(Beerschot) the full 90 minutes, in his team’s 2-1 win over Leuven
- Roee Dayan(Beerschot) played 86 minutes and scored a goal in his team’s 2-1 win over Leuven
- Liroi Tzairi(Mechelen) came on in the 93th minute in his team’s 3-1 win over Westerlo
- Shlomi Arbeitman(Westerlo) did not play
- Moshe Ohayon(Luzern) came on in the 83rd minute against Young Boys Bern in a 2-0 win
- Yuval Spungin(Omonia) played a full 90 minutes in Omonia’s 5-2 win
- Dedi Ben Dayan(Omonia) played a full 90 minutes in Omonia’s 5-2 win
- Idan Sade(Paralimni) came on in the 57th minute in 1-1 draw against Achnas
- Roee Bakal(Alki Larnaca) did not play
- Aviram Baruchyan(Polonia Warsaw) did not play
- Maor Melikson(Wisla Krakow) played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Kielce
- Dudu Biton(Wisla Krakow) played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss Kielce
- Liad Elimelech(Bielsko Biala) came on in the 46th minute against Lubin in a 1-0 win
- Liran Cohen(Bielsko Biala) did not play
- A scout from Olympique de Marseille watched Ashdod’s young star Nir Biton score a goal in a 1-1 draw with Hapoel Petah Tikva, Marseille is one of a number of clubs following the young talent.
Israel’s Ligat Ha’al had a number of games yesterday, Maccabi Tel Aviv beat Acco 2-0 to snap a winless streak. Kiryat Shmona beat Bnei Yehuda with a little winner from David Solari to win 1-0. Ashdod and Hapoel Petah Tikva managed a 1-1 draw. Netanya and Rishon Lezion had a boring 0-0 affair. Hapoel Beersheva came back to beat Maccabi Petah Tikva 2-1. In the final games Ramat Hasharon and Hapoel Tel Aviv drew 1-1 in a controversial match, because Ramat Hasharon believed too much added time was put on. That enabled Hapoel Tel Aviv to tie the game. Today Maccabi Haifa and Beitar Jerusalem face off, with Haifa going into fifth place if they win and Beitar moving out of the relegation zone if they win the game.
Israel’s U-19 Team will play its Italian counterpart on February 29th in a friendly match. The match will be held at the Municipal stadium in Acco. The manager of the team Eli Ohana called up the following squad to face the Italians
Keepers: Ron Shushan (Maccabi Haifa), Barak Levi (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Defenders: Shmulik Malul (Beitar Tubruk), Amar Zalisher (Beitar Tubruk), Din Akpi (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Imri Zayed (Maccabi Haifa), Yarin Hassan(Maccabi Netanya) , Akram Sarich (Maccabi Haifa)
Midfielders: Nir Lex (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Omri Altman (Fulham), Osher Abu (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Liran Jan (Hapoel Kfar Saba), Gidi Kaniuk (Maccabi Petah Tikva), Dor Kochav (Maccabi Haifa), Shahar Hirsh (Hapoel Haifa), Moshel Ben-Zion (Ashdod)
Forwards: Omer Nachmani (Beitar Jerusalem), Omer Atzil (Rishon Lezion), Shoval Gozlan (Maccabi Haifa), Ben Azobel (Hapoel Kfar Saba)
Best of luck to the National Team Youth.
- Maor Melikson is being linked with a move to Italian giants Napoli as well as an unnamed team in Spain, he was wanted by teams in Belgium, but now his price tag is too expensive.
- Left back Omri Ben Harush of Maccabi Netanya is being linked with a move to Maccabi Haifa next season, despite the fact Haifa already has a promising left-back in Taleb Tawatha.
- Gai Assulin made his debut for Brighton yesterday. He came on in the 77th minute and apparently impressed.
Israel National Team Manager Eli Guttman selected his first squad for the upcoming friendly against the Ukraine. There weren’t many surprises in his call up. Guttman called up 5 players from Israel’s current league leaders Kiryat Shmona. Yossi Benayoun returns and will captain the side against the Ukraine.
Keepers – Dudu Aouate(Mallorca), Dani Amos(Kiryat Shmona)
Defenders – Elad Gabai(Kiryat Shmona), Shir Tzedek(Kiryat Shmona), Tal Ben Haim(Portsmouth), Dekel Keinan(Cardiff), Rami Gershon(Standard Liege), Eitan Tibi(Kiryat Shmona), Dedi Ben Dayan(Omonia), Yuval Spungin(Omonia)
Midfielders – Yossi Benayoun(Arsenal), Eran Zahavi(Palermo), Maor Melikson(Poland), Almog Cohen(Nurnberg), Adrian Rochet(Kiryat Shmona), Lior Rafaelov(Club Brugge), Bibras Natcho(Rubin Kazan)
Forwards – Ben Sahar(Auxerre), Elyaniv Barda(Genk), Omer Damari(Hapoel Tel Aviv), Tal Ben Haim II(Maccabi Petah Tikva), Tomer Hemed(Mallorca)
The positives – Overall it was a good selection. I especially liked the call up of the five Kiryat Shmona players, four of whom are defenders by trade, including the keeper Dani Amos. Kiryat Shmona has allowed only 12 goals in 26 matches this season and the defenders likely have something to do with it. It will be a good opportunity to test themselves against good international players. Tal Ben Haim returns to the side after being absent in Israel’s last match against Malta, over the past few years he has been Israel’s only reliable defender. Israel has a lot of depth at the attacking midfield position with four players called up, this is certainly the main strength of the team.
The negatives – I was disappointed to see Nir Biton in the Under-21 squad and not in the National Team, he is a really big talent and offers some height in a vertically challenged midfield, I think Guttman will eventually be forced to call him up even though we aren’t hurting for midfield options, as he is too good to ignore. The call ups of Yossi Benayoun and Dekel Keinan were not what I was hoping for. Benayoun hasn’t been playing at all for Arsenal and the same with Keinan at Cardiff, both players lack match fitness. I think it is also a bit of a double standard considering other players in the squad probably wouldn’t have been called up if they weren’t seeing playing time. For me Benayoun’s last few outings with National Team have been poor as have Keinan’s. Guttman also called up just one defensive midfielder in Almog Cohen, I would have preferred another defensive midfielder called up like Kobi Moyal, Gal Alberman, Rafi Dahan, Avihai Yadin, or Kobi Dajani. Also the call up of Ben Sahar over Dudu Biton doesn’t make sense. Sahar barely scores at club level, while Biton has been consistent over the last two years, he has yet to make an appearance for the National Football Team.
Conclusion: Although I disagree with certain decisions made, I look forward to seeing how Israel will do against the Ukraine, and hope that Guttman is correct and that I am wrong.