Israel struggles to beat minnow Liechtenstein 2-1 in World Cup soccer
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Israel struggles to beat minnow Liechtenstein 2-1 in World Cup soccer

Home team goes two goals clear in early stages, but then concedes a goal and loses confidence

Israel's midfielder Eran Zahavi (C) passes the ball as Liechtenstein's midfielder Sandro Wieser defends during the World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Israel and Liechtenstein at the Teddy Kollek Memorial Stadium in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Israel's midfielder Eran Zahavi (C) passes the ball as Liechtenstein's midfielder Sandro Wieser defends during the World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Israel and Liechtenstein at the Teddy Kollek Memorial Stadium in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

Israel managed two wins in succession in World Cup qualifiers by beating soccer minnow Liechtenstein on Sunday night, but made hard work of the win after a confident start.

Striker Tomer Hemed headed in one cross in the fourth minute and another in the 16th minute, to leave the home team looking on course to a straightforward and substantial victory. But Liechtenstein’s Maximilian Göppel pulled a goal back early in the second half, and Israel seemed to lose its confidence. Göppel’s goal was his country’s first in a competitive match for over a year.

Watched by 9,000 fans at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, Israel resorted to playing tight defensively in the final half hour of the game to prevent the tiny visiting nation from stealing a point. Overall, Israel held possession of the ball for 69% of the game and managed 21 shots on goal compared to Liechtenstein’s five.

Albania was hosting Spain, and Macedonia was at home to Italy, in other Group G matches later Sunday.

Israel's forward Tomer Hemed (C) vies for the ball against Liechtenstein's Benjamin Buchel during the World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Israel and Liechtenstein at the Teddy Kollek Memorial Stadium in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Israel’s forward Tomer Hemed (C) vies for the ball against Liechtenstein’s Benjamin Buchel during the World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Israel and Liechtenstein at the Teddy Kollek Memorial Stadium in Jerusalem on October 9, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

Israel had scored its first win of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with a nail-biting 2-1 victory in Macedonia on Thursday night.

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)

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.

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

Israel’s next game is away to Albania on November 12.

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