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Golan gets England out of jail

England were thrown a Euro 2008 lifeline in Tel Aviv as Israel overcame Russia to leave Steve McClaren's men requiring just a draw against Croatia to qualify.

Dorel Golan's stoppage-time winner, just seconds after Dmitri Sychev had struck a post with a shot which looked destined to send England out, must have raised the roof not only off the Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv but the Grove Hotel in Watford, where McClaren was watching on, accompanied by his coaching staff.

McClaren must have been shredding his fingernails as, for 29 long minutes, Israel resisted their increasingly-desperate vistors after Diniyar Biyaletdinov had levelled Elianiv Barda's early effort.

Yet it appeared all the hard work would be wasted when Sychev broke through.

Amazingly, the Russian's seemingly goalbound shot bounced off the outside of the Israeli post. And, as they poured forward looking for a winner, the visitors were caught with the perfect sucker punch as Golan scored the goal which could mean so much to McClaren.

With star strikers Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney both missing through injury, plus skipper John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, who is suspended, holding Croatia, who have not lost during their Group E campaign and hammered England in Zagreb 13 months ago, is by no means automatic.

However, with Croatia now through thanks to Russia's failure tonight, McClaren will hope they lack the desire his own side must show if they are to make the most of such an unexpected reprieve.

There are times when it has appeared McClaren has been cursed as England manager.

In Russia last month, McClaren's men saw a winning position crumble completely on the back of an awful penalty decision when a foul by Wayne Rooney was shown to be well outside the area.

The subsequent loss of Rooney to a freak training ground accident only increased McClaren's misery, his nightmare compounded by the thigh strain Michael Owen picked up in Austria last night which means he will miss the Croatia game.

A consistent theme during a difficult week has been McClaren's belief that Wembley clash will be make-or-break.

Instead of remaining within the bosom of his family in the north-east, McClaren chose to watch events unfold with his team of coaches at their Watford base, desperately hoping his prediction came true but equally aware it could be his own version of the Last Supper.

Yet it seemed his prayers were going to be answered when Elianiv Barda flicked Israel into a 10th-minute lead.

At the time, Russia seemed disabled by nerves, unable to stem the flow of Israeli attacks.

It would have been no surprise and in no way unjust had the hosts doubled their lead, although the closest they came was when Barak Itzhaki and Barda failed by inches to convert Maor Bar Bazaglo's outswinging free-kick to the far post.

But, as soon as the second-half began, it was obvious Hiddink had prompted a revolution in belief.

Suddenly, it was Russia on top and creating all the chances.

Although Dudu Aouate stood firm for a while, it was only a matter of time before the visitors levelled.

The equaliser was a fine example of team play, with four men involved on the edge of the area before Andrei Arshavin rolled a pass into the path of Biyaletdinov which invited the finish.

Israel were now on the retreat and McClaren must have had his head in his hands as he watched Dmitri Sychev flash a 20-yard shot just wide.

Another shot from Sychev followed, along with yet more Russian pressure.

Indeed, throughout the final half hour, Israel mustered just one chance, with Gal Alberman's flick just off target.

But, in a gut-wrenching finale, Sychev came so close to knocking England out before Golan finished Russia off.

European Championship Qualifying: Group E
Final - Ramat Gan Stadium
Attendance: 27,563
2 - 1
Elyaniv Barda (10)
Omer Golan (90)
Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (61)
Israel Russia
1 Dudu Aouate Vladimir Gabulov 30
3 Tal Ben-Haim Aleksandr Aniukov 22
21 Dekel Keinan Alexei Berezutsky 27
2 Yuval Spungin Vasili Berezutsky 2
14 Yoav Ziv Sergei Ignashevich 5
19 Gal Alberman Diniyar Bilyaletdinov 15
11 Maor Bar Buzaglo Igor Semshov 20
20 Tamir Cohen Yuri Zhirkov 18
10 Elyaniv Barda Konstatin Zurianov 17
17 Ben Sahar Andrei Arshavin 10
7 Barach Yitzhaki Roman Pavluchenko 19
22 Nir Davidovitch Viacheslav Malafeev 16
18 Avi Strol Denis Kolodin 25
8 Aviram Baruchian Ivan Saenko 9
16 Moshe Ohayon Dmitri Torbinsky 7
12 Amit Ben Shushan Alexander Kerzhakov 11
9 Roberto Colautti Pavel Pogrebniak 13
15 Omer Golan Dmitri Sychev 26
A Ben Shushan for B Yitzhaki (62)
D Torbinsky for I Semshov (30)
M Ohayon for M Buzaglo (64)
D Sychev for R Pavluchenko (52)
O Golan for B Sahar (69)
P Pogrebniak for V Berezutsky (68)
Yellow Cards
Gal Alberman (45)
Aleksandr Aniukov (77)
Ben Sahar (63)  

ESPNsoccernet, Nov. 17, 2007

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