The Israeli national soccer team got goals from Ezra Hen and Shpungin Yuval to defeat Hondurs 2-0 in an international friendly at Citi Field.
There were 26,170 enthusiastic fans in attendance with most of them supporting Honduras.
Honduras controlled most of the pace in the first half but the stellar play of goalie Ariel Harush kept them off the scoreboard.
Harush was not Israel’s usual starter in net, but he showed Coach Eli Gutman what he was capable of.
“All of our players played very good defense,” Gutman said after the game. “Before the game, I said to Harush, ‘The field is over there, go and show me your quality.’ I saw he had a lot of potential and he showed me today.”
The best scoring chance for Honduras came on a long cross by Oscar B. Garcia that was headed off the crossbar.
The first half ended 0-0. Although both teams had good scoring chances, Honduras clearly had control of the tempo of the game and kept possession of the ball a lot longer than the Israelis did.
Israel came out stronger early in the second half, however and went ahead 1-0 on a beautiful goal by Ezra Hen in the 52nd minute. Hen’s kick was made off-balance from 50 feet out and just slid under the crossbar behind Honduran goalie, Noel Valladares.
“Because of goals like this you are coming to the stadium,” Gutman told reporters.
Hen did not start for Israel but entered the game at the start of the second half in place of team captain Yossi Benayoun.
Israel played a more defensive style after taking the lead, but Harush made several big saves and got solid help from his teammates who cleared the ball from in front of the goal during several scrambles.
Shimon Abihazira scored his first goal for the Israeli national team in the 81st minute to increase the lead to 2-0. Abihazira deflected the ball home from in front of the net on a shot by Felix Barda El Yaniv.
Honduras appeared to pull to within a goal late in the game but Roger Rojas was called for a hand ball after he deflected the ball in off his forearm from three yards out.
This was a very solid victory for Israel, who has been a pleasant surprise this season in their World Cup Qualifying matches.
Israel will next face Ukraine on August 14th. Honduras has an important match this Friday against Costa Rica.
When asked about the fact that most of the crowd was supporting Honduras, Gutman replied, “I saw 30,000 people in blue and white.” Those are the colors of both teams.
There were three yellow cards handed out during the game. Eran Zahavi of Israel received one in the 32nd minute while Israel’s Shpungin Yuval received one in the 81st. Roger Rojas of Honduras was carded in the 86th minute.
Both teams made six substitutions during the match.
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