Steve McLaren can breathe a little easier now as Omer Golan put away the match winning goal in the 91st minute to give Israel one of its most memorable win in its soccer history as they beat a Russian team that looked like Arsenal in its combination play and pinpoint passing but like the Gunners of last season were unable to finish off their chances. One wondered why Aleksandr Kerzhakov was on the bench. On the other hand the Israel squad capitalized on their few chances by mounting effective counterattacks led by Barak Itzhaki and Gal Alberman.
Be that as it may, the win puts England in control of its destiny with a win or even a draw over Croatia at home sealing the second qualifying spot in Group E. For Russia it just got harder as they are behind England in goal differential and tie breaker advantage.
The Israeli squad came out to give its best and it can finish its Euro campaign with its head held high as they play Macedonia in its last fixture. Their squad proved that they were much more than Yossi Benayoun or Roberto Colautti. Dudu Awat again proved to be a bit quicker on the draw than the Russian forwards led by Andriy Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Dmitri Sychev.
One thing the match did was to lay to rest the conspiracy theory that Israel was paid off by Roman Abramovich who virtually underwrites Russian soccer nowadays, to lose the match. He did not look as if he had lost much sleep wondering about that controversy as he watched the match from the stands.
Abramovich must have been displeased by the Russian loss but heartened by the stout display of Tal Ben Haim and starlet Ben Sahar on loan to QPR. Both featured prominently in Israel's win as Ben Haim kept Pavlyuchenko off stride and Sahar had some highlight moments against the Russian defence. As Chelsea's owner Abramovich, enjoys deep ties to the Israeli soccer establishment with Avram Grant the former national coach now Chelsea's coach and Israeli soccer super agent Pini Zahavi a special friend, responsible for introducing Grant to Abramovich Abramovich also sponsors the annual Channel One tournament which last January featured Israeli, Russian, and Ukrainian clubs. With today's display he might want to take a closer look at Maor Bezoglu and Barak Itzakhi for the Chelsea squad.