By Ori Lewis
Marouane Fellaini grabbed an early goal as 10-man Belgium survived Israel’s spirited second-half performance to earn a 1-0 win in Euro 2016 qualifying Group B in Jerusalem on Tuesday night.
Belgium dominated the first half but could not capitalise beyond Fellaini’s close-range effort in the ninth minute when he was teed up by captain Vincent Kompany who was later sent off.
The visitors lacked urgency for the rest of the match and almost paid a high price for failing to increase their lead when defender Kompany was dismissed in the 64th for a second booking.
Israel, who struggled to find an opening against stout Belgian defending until Kompany’s departure, then found gaps and created chances, though most of their efforts were wayward.
The fixture was the only Euro qualifier of the night. It was scheduled to be played last September but had to be postponed because of the war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Belgium leapfrogged Israel to move top of the group, ahead of second-placed Wales on goal difference with both teams on 11 points from five matches. Israel are third, with nine points and Cyprus a further three points back.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said his team did enough to get the result but the performance could have been better.
“My players came to this away match and they knew what they had to do to get the three points.
“We did look a little tired in the second half and we will have to see how we deal with this in our upcoming matches.”
Israel coach Eli Guttman rued his side’s missed chances after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at home to Wales and said their next match in Bosnia on June 12 would be crucial.
“I was heartened by our play. We were worth a goal today and that is a great miss. A 1-1 draw would have been a just result. Our away match against Bosnia has now become the most important for us in the competition, that is clear,” he said.
Standings P W D L F A Pts
1 Belgium 5 3 2 0 13 1 11
2 Wales 5 3 2 0 7 2 11
3 Israel 5 3 0 2 9 6 9
4 Cyprus 5 2 0 3 9 10 6
5 Bosnia 5 1 2 2 5 6 5
6 Andorra 5 0 0 5 2 20 0