Coentrao rescues Portugal in Israel
Fabio Coentrao’s last-minute goal earned Portugal a face-saving 3-3 draw in Tel Aviv as they played out a six-goal thriller with Israel.
Portugal are renowned for making hard work of supposed lesser teams in qualification and this Group F clash followed suit, with Paulo Bento’s men recovering from a 3-1 deficit to stay on level terms with their hosts in the group.
Russia are the runaway leaders on 12 points – they play Northern Ireland on Saturday – with Israel then shading Portugal on goal difference only, with both sides having amassed eight points.
Israel should be clear, though, despite going behind to Bruno Alves’ second-minute opener.
After that Tomer Hemed, Eden Ben Basat and Null Gershon spun things around, only for Helder Postiga and Coentrao to even things up.
Alves gave Portugal the upper hand, breaking through a static home defense to give his side a dream start, and Coentrao should have made it two a minute later but shot straight at Dudo Aouate.
Israel stepped up after that and Ben Basat fizzed a shot wide before the equalizer arrived in the 24th minute, Real Mallorca striker Hemed turning in the box and smashing in a 15-yard effort after a ball from Maor Melicsohn.
Portugal should have gone back in front soon after, but Postiga produced a horror miss, rounding Aouate after a Raul Mereiles pass and only finding the side-netting.
Postiga was made to pay for his error as Israel took the lead before the break, Ben Basat’s rocket from the edge of the box the end product of a strong run on to Eytan Tibi’s pass.
Tal Ben Haim’s tackle denied Postiga as the half-time whistle went, but Israel returned to the front foot in the second half, with Ben Basat going close.
Hemed went off just after the hour but Israel’s firepower remained, and Celtic’s Gershon headed their third in the 70th minute.
Cristiano Ronaldo, unusually quiet, then set about getting Portugal back playing, and two minutes later he broke clear and squared for the waiting Postiga, who found his range.
It had looked as though Israel would hold out after that but, with seconds left, Hugo Almedia’s header cracked the bar and Coentrao buried the rebound.