Greece produced a good performance away from home to Israel but failed to return with the three crucial points after being held to a 1-1 draw in their World Cup Qualification match. Theofanis Gekas revealed his skill-set was not rusty when he opened the scoring ahead of the interval, but Israel pegged back just after half-time with an equalizer through Omer Golan.
A determined Greece demonstrated a continuously creative performance in attack; however, a sloppy night in front of goal kept the score-line level at Ramat Gan’s National Stadium. Greece’s lead at the top of Group 2 disappeared after Switzerland easily beat Moldova 2-0 away from home. Greece plays Israel in Crete on Wednesday in a must-win match for the home side.
Greece opened brightly and had the match’s first real chance when Trainos Dellas had a header cleared off the line despite beating the goal keeper. Israel looked to their captain and Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun ,for inspiration, but the left-winger was frustrated by a strict Greek defense.
At the other end, a suddenly confident Greek strike force continued to trouble Israel when a creative combination featuring Angelos Basinas and Giourkas Seitaridis would have silenced the crowd had the latter not flashed his effort wide.
It was three minutes before half-time that Greece stunned their hosts, as Theofanis Gekas cheekily poked a loose ball past Aouate to give Greece the lead ahead of the interval. The Portsmouth striker was sharply positioned, and clinical with his finish, despite his lack of game time at Fratton Park.
In the second half, Israel’s quest for a leveller got off to the appropriate start as Benayoun raced into the Greek box before providing a cross into the box. Chalkias was quick to foil the play, but the bigger problem for Israel was a swift Greek counter-attack.
While their objective was to score, Israel nearly conceded for a second time when Giorgos Karagounis was allowed into the box on fifty-four minutes. The Panathinaikos midfielder, however, wasted the chance as it rocketed over the bar.
Not discouraged by their shortcomings in defense, Israel still pushed towards the Greek goal and completed their mission when Omer Golan slotted past Chalkias. Again it was Benayoun zooming into the box before threading a pass to Golan, who finished to the delight of the home crowd.
Forced to find another goal, Greece remained the stronger side in attack as a second goal was now mandatory. The wait was nearly put to an abrupt end when Gekas found himself in a familiar circumstance in front of Aouate’s goal; however, there was no brace as he fired into the side netting.
Greece had the opportunity to seize a late lead when a header from Sotiris Kyrgiakos required a sharp header away from defender Klemi Saban.
Determined to seal maximum points, Greece stubbornly sped towards Aouate’s goal with Giorgos Samaras laying-off a pass for Christos Patsatzoglou after a dynamic run from the Celtic forward. Known for his heavy foot, Patsatzoglou didn’t hesitate to release a driven effort ,but a slight deflection forced the effort wide.
Unable to beat Aouate yet again, the final whistle came with a dose of disappointment, as the replay in Heraklion now holds a must-win importance if Greece are to remain frontrunners for World Cup Finals in South Africa.