A hat-trick by Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun gave Israel a 3-1 win over Malta in the first game from Group F of the EURO 2012 qualifying round at the Ramat Gan Stadium in Ramat Gan, Israel on Thursday.
The hosts seemed heading towards a most comfortable win as Benayoun put them ahead after just seven minutes but the Maltese hit back, levelling matters through Jamie Pace. However after the break, Benayoun converted a penalty to restore the lead before adding another goal to seal the issue.
Malta coach John Buttigieg had faith in the same eleven players which started the friendly game against FYR Macedonia last month.
Israel made their intentions clear right from the start, having a goal disallowed for an offside after just one minute. However on the 7th, Yossi Benayoun was not to be denied when he concluded a solo effort with a fine shot which beat goalkeeper Andrew Hogg.
The hosts pushed for more, going close through attempts by Tamir Cohen, Ben Sahar, Benayoun and Ben Dayan.
Malta equalised eight minutes from the end of the first half when a fine free kick by Roderick Briffa was well-met by Jamie Pace who headed the ball home.
Israel replied with an Almaog Cohen effort which hit the crossbar two minutes later.
In the second half, Luis Fernandez’ side went all out in search of the lead. Goalkeeper Andrew Hogg performed saves on Ben Sahar, Vermouth and Kayal but on 64 minutes, Israel managed to restore the lead. Substitute Andrew Cohen brought Tamir Cohen down inside the area and from the penalty spot, Benayoun converted.
The Chelsea midfielder sealed the issue eleven minutes later when a shot by Vermouth was partially saved by Hogg and off the rebound, Yossi Benayoun placed the ball at the back of the net.
Malta will be in action on Tuesday as the national team hosts Latvia at the National Stadium.
ISRAEL Dudu Aouate, Tal Ben Haim, Dani Bondarv, Beram Kayal (86′ Eyal Golasa), Almog Cohen, Lior Refaelov, Yossi Benayoun, Eran Zahavi (51′ Gil Vermouth), Ben Sahar (73′ Shlomi Arbeitman), Dedi Ben-Dayan, Tamir Cohen.
MALTA Andrew Hogg, Edward Herrera (77’ Manny Muscat), Andrei Agius, Jonathan Caruana, Carlo Mamo, Jamie Pace, Gareth Sciberras, Shaun Bajada, Roderick Briffa (79’ Clayton Failla), Michael Mifsud, Daniel Bogdanovic (58’ Andrew Cohen).
Referee: Said Ennjimi (FRA)
Assistant referees: Frédéric Cano, Fredji Harchay (FRA)
Fourth official: Sébastien Moreira (FRA)
Yellow Cards: D. Bogdanovic, Y. Benayoun, A. Cohen, J. Pace