Ten-man Belgium defeats Israel 1-0 in Euro 2016 qualifier
JERUSALEM (AP) — Ten-man Belgium held on to beat Israel 1-0 in a 2016 European Championship qualifier on Tuesday after Marouane Fellaini scored an early goal and captain Vincent Kompany was sent off midway through the second half.
Fellaini scored from close range in the ninth minute to earn a victory that put the Belgians top of Group B, ahead of Wales on goal difference.
But the victory did not come easy. Kompany was sent off for a second yellow card in the 64th minute and his teammates had to fend off repeated Israeli attacks in the final minutes, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois making some important saves.
“We definitely did not deserve to lose today,” Israel coach Eli Guttman said. “This is the type of Israel team that I wanted to see. We saw an Israel team that battled and played modern football. It’s a pity we did not get something from the game.”
After a disappointing 3-0 loss to Wales on Saturday, Guttman said he was pleased with the team’s performance.
“I saw we did not give up on the game for one moment. I saw that after Kompany was sent off we took control of the game, but they have a great goalkeeper in Courtois,” Guttman said.
Israel made a bright start, with Kompany having to stop a Ben Sahar shot in the first minute.
But Belgium soon took control, and in the ninth minute, Roma striker Radja Nainngolan tried a long-range shot that fell for Kompany. The captain’s effort was blocked, only for the loose ball to be steered home by Fellaini.
The visitors remained in control throughout the first half and into the second until Kompany received his second yellow for a foul on Eran Zahavi.
From then on Israel piled on the pressure, with Courtois saving a Sahar shot in the 74th minute and captain Tal Ben Haim going close in the 81st. But the Belgians held on to secure victory.
“It’s too bad because we deserved at least a draw from this game,” Sahar said. “But it gives us confidence for the upcoming games. We have now lost two games but we played against two excellent teams. Today we showed we are a team and fought hard. We lost but we are proud of our performance.”
Israel began the weekend at the top of the group, but is now third, two points back following the losses to Wales and Belgium.
Belgium is now in a strong position to qualify for the 2016 finals in France. The top two from each group qualify automatically along with the best third-place team.