Israel beats Macedonia in nail-biting World Cup soccer qualifier
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Israel beats Macedonia in nail-biting World Cup soccer qualifier

Goalkeeper saves penalty in stoppage time to preserve narrow victory

Israel's players celebrate after Tomer Hemed (No. 10) scores during the World Cup 2018 qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won 2-1 (AFP/Robert Atanasovski)
Israel's players celebrate after Tomer Hemed (No. 10) scores during the World Cup 2018 qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won 2-1 (AFP/Robert Atanasovski)

Israel moved into fourth place in Group G of the World Cup soccer qualifiers with a nail-biting 2-1 victory in Macedonia on Thursday night.

Tomer Hemed and Tal Ben Haim scored in the first half for Israel, before Ilija Nestorovski got Macedonia back into the match shortly after the hour.

But Israel defender Eitan Tibi was sent off in stoppage time, conceding a penalty, and Israel had goalkeeper Dudu Goresh to thank for saving the spotkick and preserving the win.

Albania moved to the top of the group, with six points, after winning in Lichtenstein 2-0 to maintain its perfect start to the qualifying campaign.

Israel's Tomer Hemed scores with a header during the World Cup 2018 football qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won the game 2-1. (AFP PHOTO / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI)
Israel’s Tomer Hemed scores with a header during the World Cup 2018 football qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won the game 2-1. (AFP/Robert Atanasovski)

Goalkeeper Peter Jehle turned into his own net, and Bekim Balaj, who also netted the winner against Macedonia, scored in the 71st.

In the same group, Italy maintained its unbeaten home record in the World Cup qualifiers with a 1-1 draw with Spain in Turin.

Israel's forward Tomer Hemed celebrates after scoring during the World Cup 2018 football qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won the game 2-1. (AFP PHOTO / ROBERT ATANASOVSKI)
Israel’s forward Tomer Hemed celebrates after scoring during the World Cup 2018 football qualification match between Macedonia and Israel in Skopje on October 6, 2016. Israel won the game 2-1. (AFP/Robert Atanasovski)

Spain lost to Italy in the round of 16 at the European Championship, and was set for a measure of revenge when Vitolo scored in the 55th minute following a rare mistake from veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

But Daniele De Rossi converted a penalty with eight minutes remaining after Eder was tripped by Sergio Ramos, and preserved his team’s formidable home record. Italy has won 43 World Cup qualifiers, drawing the other seven.

“We made a good impression here,” Spain coach Julen Lopetegui said. “Italy is strong and, if you let them, their players can hurt you. … I am satisfied, we showed character and ambition. We are on the right path.”

Spain and Italy are level on four points in Group G after winning their opening qualifiers. Only the top team qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia automatically. Israel is next on three points.

Israel’s next game is against Liechtenstein, at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, on Sunday.

Israel went down 3-1 to Italy in its first World Cup qualifier, in a brave and gutsy performance in Haifa on September 5.

Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts after making a save during the World Cup 2018 qualifier football match Israel vs Italy at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, on September 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon reacts after making a save during the World Cup 2018 qualifier football match Israel vs Italy at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, on September 5, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)
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