Friday, March 22, 2013

Israel 3 - Portugal 3; Luxembourg 0 - Azerbaijan 0

Ramat Gan and the surprising Israel hosted Portugal in a pivotal match to decide the runner-up in Group F.  In the opening minute, Portugal established their intentions.  Bruno Alves rose up at the six-yard line to head home a corner kick and put Portugal ahead 1-0.  Halfway through the period, Israel struck back.  Eden Ben Basat stepped over a weakly hit cross and in doing so faked out the Portuguese defense.  He nearly caught Tomer Hemed off guard, but Hemed was able to turn and chase down the ball before firing off a spin to the bottom left of the Portuguese goal for the equalizer.  Helder Postiga should have reclaimed the lead nine minutes later, but his chance at an unmark shot was lost when he slipped.  Postiga stood up only to fire off the near post under pressure. 
Seven minutes after that, Ben Basat pushed Israel ahead after latching onto an Eytan Tibi through ball and outrunning the entire Portuguese defense.  His blast made it 2-1.  Postiga was in on goal again at the end of stoppage time, but Tal Ben Haim tackled away at the last moment.  The score at the half was Israel 2, Portugal 1.

The danger man Postiga nearly had a goal again eleven minutes in, but Tibi made a saving tackle.  Carlos Martins came on for Portugal and nearly tied it up from twenty-five yards, but Israel goalkeeper Dudu Aoueta held the ball on the dive.  Two minutes after that, Israel had a third.  Null Gershon rose above Alves to head the corner home, an embarrassing situation for Portugal given that they had eight men defending only three Israeli attackers.  Two minutes later, Postiga finally got his reward.  A through ball from Vierinha gave Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured, red) his first real opportunity, and Ronaldo's cross to the back post was hit in by Postiga on the slide.  In the penultimate minute of regulation, Fabio Coentrao nearly equalized after heading a Vierinha cross off the ground and over Aoueta, but the ball landed on the crossbar.  In the final minute of stoppage time, a Hugo Almeida header beat Aoueta, bounced off the crossbar, and led to an attempted clearance by Yuval Shpungin.  Coentrao blocked the clearance into the net and the time ran out.  Portugal escape with a 3-3 draw on the road.

Luxembourg welcomed Azerbaijan to the city of Luxembourg with both teams looking to move ofut of the cellar.  Ruslan Abishov almost snatched a road goal, but Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert was up to the challenge, diving to his right to punch away desperately.  Luxembourg responded with a ball up the left side of the pitch.  Daniel Da Mota did extremely well to keep the ball inbounds, but his efforts when for not when Aurelien Joachim hit his shot straight into the goalkeeper from close range.  Paris Fardzhad-Azad had a chance to put Azerbaijan ahead, but his header off a long cross to the far post was nodded onto the far post with less than five minutes before the halftime whistle.  The whistle blew with the score knotted at zero goals apiece.

The second half was a mere shell of the exciting first half, with neither side able to produce much offense.  The match ends in a 0-0 draw that really does neither team any favors as they try to move up the group table.

The final scheduled match in Group F was to take place in Belfast between home side Northern Ireland and group leaders Russia, but the snowfall proved too much and the match was postponed.

Russia 12 pts +8
Israel 8 pts +5
Portugal 8 pts +3
N. Ireland 3 pts -2
Azerbaijan 3 pts -4
Luxembourg 2 pts -10

Bruno Alves 2
Helder Postiga 72
Fabio Coentrao 90+3

Tomer Hemed 24
Eden Ben Basat 40
Null Gershon 70

Match Reports:

Highlights: (Israel v. Portugal) (Luxembourg v. Azerbaijan)

23 March 2013
Northern Ireland at Russia 10:00 Belfast (Note: this match was snowed out again the next day and was postponed for a later matchday entirely).

News Reports:

No comments: