Yossi goal not enough to save Israel

Yossi Benayoun was on target with a goal for Israel last night, but could not prevent his side from suffering a narrow 4-3 defeat at the hands of Croatia in their vital Euro 2008 qualifier.

The Hammers midfielder and his countrymen took the lead in Tel Aviv through Roberto Colautti's strike early in the first half but Croatia, who recently beat England, hit back twice before half-time, thanks to a goal from Eduardo Da Silva and Darjo Srna's penalty.

After the break, Croatia, managed by former Hammers defender Slaven Bilic, extended their lead when Da Silva grabbed a second strike.

Israel reduced the deficit on 68 minutes, and it was the Hammers star and Israeli captain who provided the inspiration, firing home a fine volley to make it 3-2, but Croatia restored their two-goal advantage just minutes later, as Da Silva completed his hat-trick.

Colautti nabbed his second of the night to close the gap again for the home side, but it was not enough to stop the Croatians inflicting the first defeat on Israel in competitive football in over three years.

The result makes interesting reading for Group E, which also includes England, Russia, Macedonia, Estonia and Andorra.

Croatia currently lead the group with 10 points from four matches, followed by Russia, who won 2-0 in Macedonia on Wednesday night, on eight points. England, Macedonia and Israel all have seven points, while Estonia and Andorra have yet to get off the mark.

Yossi is set to lead his team out against England in the next Euro 2008 qualifier, which takes place in March 2007.

By Laura Burkin