Israel fell 1-0 to the Czech Republic in Nations League B action in Plzen as Vladimír Darida scored an early goal that held up for the hosts over the 90 minutes to give the hosts the 3 points. Willi Ruttensteiner’s team opened up the contest under pressure but improved their play as the game went on. However, their best chance by Eran Zahavi in the 86th minute was just parried away by the Czech keeper to keep the lead intact as Jaroslav Silhavy took the victory.
The blue-and-white remain in third place of Group 2 with 5 points, just one point ahead of Slovakia who defeated Scotland 1-0 while the Tartan Army lead the group with 10 points and the Czech Republic have 9 points. Israel will now need some favorable results in their final group game against Scotland in Israel on Wednesday night in order to stay in the B League.
“I believe that we played against a very tough national team who was very strong in the first half,” explained Israel coach Willi Ruttensteiner. “I am content that the players gave their maximum. We didn’t press them high enough and they played well. I told the players at halftime that we were having problems creating and when we lose balls when we build the attic it’s very dangerous.”
“Over the past few games we have had the same types of problems. We aren’t in the first half and then I have to make substitutes and change players which worked well this time as we played well in the second half. I am trying so that we are playing well at the start of the game but this also happened when we played the Czech Republic at home. It’s hard to say if this is a mental issue but we will analyze the game and prepare for Scotland.”
Eran Zahavi reflected back on the game, “I am disappointed with the first half but the second half we played really well with a number of chances. We weren’t aggressive in the first half and we didn’t do that. We gave up an easy goal and then it’s tough to comeback in that situation against a quality side like the Czech Republic.”
Head Coach Willi Ruttensteiner had a full complement of players for the contest with the exception of Hoffenheim striker Monas Dabbur who was diagnosed with COVID-19 ahead of the cancelled Norway match that was supposed to take place last week.
Ofir Marciano started in goal after a couple of shaky appearances last month with a back line of Eli Dasa, Nir Bitton, Hatem El Hamed, Eitan Tibi, Taleb Tawhatha. Manning the midfield was Dor Peretz, Eyal Golasa, Manor Solomon and captain Bibras Natcho with Eran Zahavi serving as the lone striker.
Zahavi had the opening chance for Israel from 25 meters but in the 7th minute Vladimír Darida beat Marciano as he stabbed home a low cross by Vladimír Coufal to give the hosts a quick 1-0 lead. Israel allowed way too many passes in their own area as Coufal and Zdeněk were given room to operate to and turn the blue-and-white defenders inside out before Darida slotted the ball into the wide open net.
Midfielder Jakub Jankto had a pair of chances in the 28th and 31st minutes but both times his attempt just missed the target while Tomáš Kalas sharp header off a corner went directly to Marciano who made the stop. Tomáš Souček’s 41st minute opportunity was blocked by Peretz as the first half ended with the Czech Republic ahead 1-0 after 45 minutes of play.
Ruttensteiner made a pair of substitutions to begin the second half as Neta Lavi and Sun Menachem came on in place of Natcho and Tawhatha as Israel looked to freshen up the offense.
Zahavi’s half chance was blocked by the Czech defense in the 53rd minute while Israel had four quick corners that they couldn’t capitalize on as the hosts weathered the storm. Michael Krmenčík has a chance but Tibi takes care of the attempt as Israel made their third substitute bringing on Shon Weissman for Dor Peretz in the 72nd minute.
El Hamed was sent off in the 81st minute, earning a red card from the referee as Israel feverishly looked for the equalizer. Muhamed Abu Fani entered the fray for Golasa in the 86th minute as Zahavi had a brilliant chance to draw the visitors even but Tomáš Vaclík made a fantastic save as the Sevilla keeper dove to his left to just tap the ball away from going into his goal.
Zahavi once again had a chance but his attempt went wide of the goal as the blue-and-white kept trying to find the tying strike as time wound down for Ruttensteiner’s squad in a slim 1-0 defeat.