With Cristiano Ronaldo having one of his worst performances in recent memory and being two goals down with 20 minutes to go, Portugal are probably semi-pleased to leave Israel with a draw, without too much damage to their chances of finishing second in their World Cup qualifying group, which is hard to see how it won’t fall to Russia when it’s all said and done.
That Russia beat Israel 4-0 in Ramat Gan and also added a crucial 1-0 win over Portugal to complete its early double over the two teams that also see themselves worthy of qualifying. Portugal went up to a 1-0 lead in the first minute off a Bruno Alves corner, but a terrible first half from almost every player, including Ronaldo, who was kept under close watch of two or three players constantly, led to Israel overtaking the lead.
First it was Tomer Hemed, the Mallorca striker, who capped off a nice play on the right wing to give Israel the equalizer. A bit later it was Eden Ben Basat, who plays for Toulouse, scoring a fantastic goal after Hemed used his heel to flick the ball into the box. Portugal made some noise of trying to equalize, but they left the pitch at half time going behind 1-2, not really showing anyone any impressive football in the rough weather in Israel.
The second half was all Portugal, with cross after cross into the Israel box, knowing their goalkeeper, Dudu Aouate, also a Mallorca player, has huge problems in handling crosses. Israel gave up on trying to attack or even have any sort of possession, but managed to score a third goal after being lucky to win a corner after a Bruno Alves mistake, as Rami Gershon, who plays for Celtic, made it a sensational 3-1.
Cristiano Ronaldo had enough, and after receiving a yellow card for taking his frustration out on a billboard, he enjoyed a good through ball, shrugged off a couple of players and found Helder Postiga with a brilliant pass, to put Portugal right in the middle of things after conceding the third goal. From here it was about 15 minutes of pressure until Hugo Almeida beat Aouate to a cross, hitting the crossbar. The Israel defense failed to clear, and Fabio Coentrao was first to react and give Portugal a deserved 3-3 draw that in hindsight is probably something they’re willing to live with after almost suffering an embarrassing defeat.
Russia, who play later on against Northern Ireland, lead the table of the group with 12 points. Israel and Portugal are at second and third with 8 points after five matches, but Israel have the better goal difference.