A last minute Fabio Coentrao strike kept Portugal’s World Cup dreams alive, earning a draw to maintain joint second place with their unlucky hosts.
The nations were inseparable before the game, both holding seven points – five behind leaders Russia – and a loss for either would have made qualification an almost impossible task. Paulo Bento’s men took the initiative from with the game’s very first attack. Miguel Veloso’s corner was met emphatically by Bruno Alves to put them on the front foot.
Conceding early, however, seemed to galvanise the hosts who hit back with two goals before the break, courtesy of Tomer Hemed and Eden Ben Basat. Eli Guttman seemed to be succeeding where Alex Ferguson failed in trying to contain Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Euro 2012 semi-finalists suffered more misery when Celtic loanee Rami Gershon appeared to have put the result to bed with a confident header.
But the visitors fought back to earn an unlikely point in Tel Aviv after going 3-1 behind with twenty minutes to play. Tottenham fans won’t associate the word clinical with Helder Postiga, but the much-travelled forward swept home well to set up a grand stand finish.
Portugal steamed forward, but as the minutes ticked by it looked like the Israelis were going to hold out for a crucial point. Collective hearts were broken though, in the last minute, as a Hugo Almeida effort crashed off the bar. The rebound fell to Real Madrid man Coentrao, who bundled home to keep the group alive and put pressure on Russia.
Israel Aouate, Shpungin, Tibi, Ben-Haim, Gershon, Yeiny, Kayal, Natcho, Melikson (Refaelov 73), Hemed (Atar 63), Ben Basat (Benayoun 81)
Portugal Rui Patricio, Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves (Almeida 74), Coentrao, Raul Meireles, Veloso (Martins 60), Moutinho, Varela (Vierinha 60) Postiga, Ronaldo