Israel produced a surprising and impressive away draw against soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal — in what had looked like the toughest game of what had been a disappointing series of qualifying games — coming back from an almost 60 minute lag to finally settle the score at 1-1 in its penultimate World Cup qualifying match Friday.
Although Israel has no chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, the fine display leaves the team in good spirits ahead of its final World Cup qualifying match, on Tuesday in Ramat Gan Stadium, against Northern Ireland.
For Portugal, conceding the late goal is a big blow, leaving it three points behind Russia in Group F, and unlikely to merit automatic qualification. Portugal, which hosts Luxembourg in its last match this week, will likely have to make do with a play-off place.
The game kicked off at Lisbon’s José Alvalade stadium with the Israeli defense standing strong, in an attempt to block Real Madrid star Ronaldo from nearing Dudu Awat’s goal. But Portugal striker Ricardo Costa scored for the home team after 27 minutes.
Undeterred, Israel held its own, and in the second half constantly pushed back the Portuguese offense. In the 85th minute, striker Eden Ben Basat took advantage of a blunder by Portuguese defender Rui Patrício — who cleared poorly — enabling Ben Basat to intercept and slot home the equalizer
A last minute save by Awat, who had an excellent game, ensured a second tie with the Portuguese team, after a 3-3 tie in the home qualifier. If Israel had performed as well against the group’s weaker teams as it did in its games against Portugal, fans noted, it might have won a place in Brazil.