Slovenia defeated Israel 3-2 in a dramatic 2020 European Championship qualifying match in Ljubljana as the blue-and-white’s hopes of advancing dimmed with four games remaining in the campaign. Benjamin Verbic headed home the winner in the 90th minute after midfielder Beram Kayal carelessly turned over the ball to take the 3 points.
Verbic opened the scoring for Slovenia with a first half strike but goals by Bibras Natcho and Eran Zahavi gave Israel a shock second half lead. However, Roman Bezjak drew the hosts even soon thereafter and Verbic nodded in his second of the match to send the Slovenian faithful into ecstasy.
Israel dropped to 5th place in Group G with 8 points as Poland sits atop the standings with 13 points followed by Slovenia with 11 points, Austria 10 points and North Macedonia who also have 8 points. The blue-and-white will be back in action in October when they visit Austria and then host Latvia who are in the group’s basement with no points.
“We say this is good and this is good,” began an animated Andi Herzog “But we always concede 3 goals and we are not professional enough. When you see the third goal it was horrible, horrible. We’re always talking about qualification but two mistakes like we made, then it’s not possible. Honestly it’s not possible.”
“We had a real good game against a big team that won against Poland and we were better than Poland and we lost the game again. We always talk about something that we dream but we have to do the decisive things on the field and when we do stupid mistakes we lose the game and it’s not funny anymore.”
A throughly disappointed Eran Zahavi also spoke about the game that was, “I don’t want to blame anyone, and this was a tough one. It may be my last chance to make it to a big tournament. We were dominant and we played dominant football. But we made a tough mistake as we also did last game. We’re just not there.”
Zahavi understood Herzog’s frustration, “He’s right and I understand him. We are playing well under him and we have been battling. But we pay for every little mistake and we have to correct them. The goal I scored could have been a dream goal but now that goal means nothing.”
Slovenia swarmed the Israeli midfield early on and created a turnover, but Roman Bezjak’s dangerous chance was brilliantly kick saved by Ofir Marciano in the 5th minute. Once the blue-and-white settled down, Zahavi’s opportunity cleared the bar at the other end of the pitch.
The two sides traded chances over the next quarter hour with Shon Weissmann creating a pair of opportunities for Coach Andi Herzog’s squad. The hosts began to threaten once again but Andraz Sporar and Josip Iličić missed the target.
However, just before the halftime break, Slovenia took a 1-0 lead as Benjamin Verbic latched onto a pass from Iličić and easily went around the Israel defense allowing him to chip the ball over Marciano.
Herzog inserted Beram Kayal in favor of Omri Ben Harush to start the second half in a move that paid immediate dividends. In the 50th minute, Kayal handed off a short corner to Manor Solomon who in turn sent it to Bibras Natcho as the captain drilled the ball past a helpless Jan Oblak from 25 meters out to draw Israel even at 1-1.
The blue-and-white continued to push as Herzog made his second substitute of the contest in the 60th minute as the Austrian boss brought on Monas Dabbur in place of Shon Weissmann and once again Israel’s coach hit the jackpot.
Dabbur freed up Zahavi just outside of the box who launched a missile directly into the top left hand corner of goal to give the visitors a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute, But the advantage lasted all of three minutes as an active Bezjak bounced the ball behind Marciano off a cross from Sporar, 2-2.
End to end action littered the pitch over the final 25 minutes with chances at both ends as Israel keeper Marciano was called upon time and time again to make tremendous saves off of Bezjak and Sporar as time wound down .
However, as the clock hit the 90th minute, Jasmin Kurtic took advantage of a Kayal miscue to send a pinpoint perfect cross to Verbic who headed the ball home to complete a brace and take the 3 points with a 3-2 victory.