Israel’s hopes to make it to the playoffs of the Euro2016 tournament in France were dashed as the Blue-and-White fell to Cyprus at home in Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem by a score of 2:1. Israel started out strong but couldn’t find a way to break though the Cyprus defense and ‘keeper. Multiple chances by Israel went wide, were pushed aside or saved disappointing the over 25K fans in attendance.
The loss places 13 point Israel one point behind Bosnia with 14 and one point ahead of Cyprus who has 12 points as Israel heads to play Belgium and Bosnia visits Cyprus on Tuesday night. An Israel win coupled with a Cyprus win or draw will give Israel 3rd place and a trip to the UEFA Euro2016 playoffs to take place in November.
Head Coach Eli Gutman started Monas Dabbur as the lone striker with Eran Zahavi to his side, Tal Ben Chaim and Gili Vermouth on the wings with midfielders Nir Bitton and Beram Kayal manning the center of the pitch. An all Maccabi Tel Aviv back four of Eli Dasa, Tal Ben Haim, Eitan Tibi and Omri Ben Harush played in front of ‘keeper Ofir Marchiano to round out the starting XI.
The Israel attack ran through Zahavi during the first 10 minutes but the Maccabi Tel Aviv captain couldn’t find the back of the goal as Israel continued to threaten throughout the first half. Tal Ben Chaim worked the left side but the Cyprus defenders were up to the task of stopping the speedy winger time and time again. Israel had some trouble in the midfield as Kayal and Bitton had problems delivering the ball up the pitch as they were playing without CSKA star Bibras Natcho who was out due to injury. The half ended 0:0 as the clubs headed to the lockerrooms.
The offense again continued to feature Zahavi as he had a number of chances including a free kick, a corner and a chance on goal to begin the final frame. Eli Dasa went off injured in the 54th minute and was replaced by Orel Degani who tried in vain to help the sputtering offense. However, it would be Cyprus who would take advantage of the substitution as a Vincent Laban free kick would be perfectly headed behind Marchiano’s goal by Dossa Junior and the visitors would take a shock 1:0 lead.
Gutman would introduce Brighton & Hove Albion striker Tomer Hemed in the 65th minute and Maor Melikson in the 71st for Ben Harush and Vermouth, with Israel ramping up the pressure to score the equalizer which they would do in the 76th minute. A scorcher of a shot by Nir Bitton found the upper left hand corner of the Cyprus to give Israel hope for a win with the score now 1:1. But it wasn’t meant to be with Demetriou taking advantage of a 3-man Israel defense, scoring in the 80th minute to snatch the away win and put Israel’s chances in jeopardy as Bosnia moved in front of Israel by a point with Israel now on their way to face Belgium on Tuesday.