Israel lost 1-0 to Belgium in their European Championship qualifying game in Jerusalem Tuesday night, beaten by a goal from Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini in the ninth minute.
Unlike the dispiriting 3-0 defeat to Wales in Haifa on Saturday, the national team recovered well from a poor first half, and dominated the second. But they could not get the equalizer, even after Belgium went down to 10 men with the sending off of Vincent Kompany, the captain, for a second yellow card offense.
The defeat puts Israel down into third place in Group B, leaving it clutching at a receding prospect of qualifying for next year’s championships in France. A crunch game could be the away match in Bosnia in three months’ time. Five of the teams placed third in the eight qualifying groups can yet force their way to France.
Eran Zahavi was the team’s standout player, twice bringing out excellent saves, with swirling shots, from the Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Israel also had one or two possible penalty claims, but could not feel too hard done by.
Belgium now tops the group on 11 points, above Wales on goal difference, followed by Israel on 9 points. Cyprus on 6, Bosnia on 5 and Andorra on 0.
The defeat came three days after Israel went down, less impressively, to Wales, widely considered a weaker team than Belgium. Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey headed Wales ahead, from a headed pass by Real Madrid’s Bale, just before half time in that game. Bale scored the second from a free kick early in the second half. Ramsey turned provider for the third goal, smashed home at close range by Bale.
Israel had won all three of its opening fixtures — against Andorra, Cyprus and Bosnia — to briefly top qualifying group B. National coach Eli Guttman had hoped for 10 points from the first five of the qualifying group’s 10 games — which would have required a draw against either Wales or Belgium. Instead Israel is stuck on nine points, behind both of those nations, and it still has to play them away from home.