What a thrilling game of football. Israel and Spain traded punches all night long but in the end, it was Israel who took the three points in a 3-2 slugfest.
Israel took the shock lead in the 20th minute through center-back Tal Ben-Haim, who towered over Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique to meet Benayoun's corner to nick the ball past Iker Casillas. The stands erupted in a sea of blue as Ben Haim rushed to the corner flag, fists pumping and screaming his head off.
The blue sea calmed after the 35th minute when Sergio Busquets rushed at the Israeli defense, outmuscled them and nailed the ball low and hard past Dudu Aouate's outstretched hand.
Parity was restored.
The half ended in a 1-1 draw. Both sides had good spells of possession and meaningful forays into the attacking third. One can only wonder what Vicente del Bosque had to say to his team about conceding the first goal.
Whatever it was, del Bosque's words didn't help, as Israel took the lead again in the 51st minute, this time through Tomer Hemed. Aouate's quick throw out to midfielder Bibras Natkho gave Israel numbers in Spain's half. Natkho sprayed the ball wide right to Hemed, who cut the ball in, side-stepped Alvaro Arbaloa and crushed the ball past Casillas' near post to take the lead 2-1.
Spain, facing another one-goal hole again, equalized again through substitute David Villa in the 76th minute. Villa, who had taken Pedro off in the 70th minute, took the ball down the left side, passed it off to Xavi, continued his run into the box, received the ball back from his Barcelona teammate and slotted the ball past Aouate for a typical Spanish goal.
Israel was having none of it. Two minutes later, right-back Yuval Spungin, who had had a terrific game stopping Pedro and David Villa from attacking down the left flank, stepped up to take a free kick about 22 yards out. Spungin hit the ball perfectly up and over the Spanish wall and into the bottom right side of the goal.
Spanish hearts were broken as Israel raced to the corner flag to wildly celebrate the goal. Israel hung on to to take the three points.
The Spanish media will have a field day with this one. Spain left the field scratching their heads while coach Eli Guttman got a champagne shower in the dressing room.