The stadium in which Steve McClaren was forced to endure chants of "You don't know what you're doing" during England's feeble goalless draw last March echoed last night to a sound thrillingly unexpected to the reprieved manager's ears as jubilant Israelis celebrated victory against a superior Russian side. It means that England, who had seemed doomed along with McClaren, were back.
Guus Hiddink's Russia missed their chance – and their chances – in an enthralling game. Despite dominating much of the play, especially after half-time, they were frustrated by a young Israeli side missing several regulars, including Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun, and fielding seven players with 10 caps or fewer. Elyaniv Barda, a striker with Genk in Belgium, scored his first goal for Israel early in the game to put Russia under pressure that they nevertheless looked capable of resisting once Diniyar Bilyaletdinov equalised on the hour. With Andrei Arshavin running proceedings, the visitors swarmed forward but could not score again. They were caught out right at the end when the substitute Omer Golan scored a sensational winner.
Russia began sharply, but a warning issued in Israel's first attack was followed by a goal. The same two players were involved each time. First, in the ninth minute, Barak Itzhaki, playing wide on the right, moved into the centre to complete a neat one-two with Barda, only to be crowded out when he might have shot first time. Almost immediately the roles were reversed and Barda showed his team-mate how to finish by taking his pass and flipping it past the goalkeeper with the outside of his foot.
Ben Sahar, the Chelsea forward on loan to Queens Park Rangers, was unlucky to be penalised when breaking through and Itzhaki missed a header two yards out from a free-kick by the teenager Maor Buzaglo, the great young hope of Israeli football. Not until a quarter of the game was over did Russia threaten, and with barely half an hour played a restless Hiddink made his first change, sending on Dmitri Torbinsky, a more attacking midfielder, for Igor Semshov.
As the pressure built in the second half, Israel began to wilt. Roman Pavlyuchenko's replacement, Dmitri Sychev, squared the ball for Bilyaletdinov, who was thwarted by the goalkeeper-captain Dud Aouate, only to beat him a minute later. Itzhaki and Arshavin switched the ball from right to left like a rugby move and Bilyaletdinov was the spare man, scoring with ease.
There was a full half an hour remaining and Russia looked the more likely winners. Time after time the wing-back Yuri Zhirkov steamed down the left and crossed, only for a white-shirted body to hack the ball away. It made all talk of a possible carve-up between the two countries seem even more insulting than ever.
With a minute to play,McClaren, watching at home on television, must have dived behind the sofa as Sychev was played through and clipped a post. Then two Russian forwards failed to make contact with a cross. Yet after four minutes of added time had been signalled, Golan won possession for Barda and ran on to his pass to send Israel, the McClarens and all pat-riotic Englishmen into raptures.Reuse content