Poland defeated Israel 2-1 in a Euro 2020 soccer match at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium Saturday night, in a game marred by a spectator running onto the pitch, and a security guard, in farcical scenes, crashing into a Polish player as he sought to chase after the intruder.
The pitch intrusion came toward the end of the game, soon after Israel had scored its goal and was seeking a second goal to tie.
The intruder ran toward Poland’s world-renowned striker Robert Lewandowski, grabbing him around the waist. Lewandowski appeared not unduly fazed.
Trying to catch the intruder, however, a security guard inadvertently ran into Poland’s defender Tomasz Kędziora, who fell to the ground a few seconds after the impact as the security guard limped away.
Once the invading fan had been caught and a semblance of order had been restored, the referee called to his assistants and appeared to consider abandoning the game — apparently believing that it was the intruding fan who had crashed into Kędziora. But with the Polish team captain, Kamil Glik, among those urging that the game be completed, play was restarted for its final two minutes.
The pitch invasion, for which Israel may face a punishment from the UEFA soccer authorities, came at a time when Israel was playing its best soccer of the match.
For most of the game, Poland dominated, taking a 2-0 lead through Grzegorz Krychowiak (after 4 minutes) and Krzysztof Piątek (54 minutes). But after a goal from Israel’s Eran Zahavi was narrowly ruled offside, Moanes Dabour scored with a flick over Poland’s Wojciech Szczęsny in the 89th minute to raise hopes of a tie.
After the brief invasion, Israel and Poland both had further chances to score, with Poland’s Lewandowski denied in the final minute.
Poland is safely through to the 2020 tournament, at the top of Group G. Under the complex Euro system, Israel, for the first time in 20 years, is assured a place in the playoffs for the tournament, which are to be held in March, irrespective of its defeat against Poland. If Israel were to win its playoff semifinal and then the final, it would qualify for the tournament itself.
Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Argentina-Uruguay soccer match, featuring superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, will go ahead as planned in Tel Aviv on Monday, the Argentinian team confirmed Friday after an end to fighting in Gaza.
“After the game with CBF Futebol [Brazil], the Argentine team will practice this Saturday in Riyadh and on Sunday it will fly toward Tel Aviv, Israel,” the team said in a tweet.
Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in Saudi Arabia on Friday, with Messi grabbing the winner.
The friendly match against Uruguay had been in doubt due to the 48 hours of intense fighting between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad earlier this week that saw hundreds of rockets fired into Israel, including at Tel Aviv.
It is possibly the highest-level game ever to be played on Israeli soil, and it features Messi, a player widely regarded to be the world’s best against his Barcelona team mate Suarez.
All the tickets to the match, about 30,000, sold out in lightning speed when they went on sale, and a cancellation would have disappointed many fans and cause immense financial losses for all involved.
Both teams have been under pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Last year, Argentina called off a World Cup warm-up match against Israel due to BDS pressure and threats to Argentina’s national team. Argentina had been scheduled to play Israel in June 2018 in Jerusalem just before the World Cup in Russia.