Israel's hopes for qualifying for the World Cup next year remain on course after a battling 2 -2 draw at Landsdowne Road in Dublin.
Israel looked all at sea after Ian Harte put the Irish in front after 4 minutes with a trademark thumping free kick and it looked to be all over when Robbie Keane's excellent finish made it 2 after 11 minutes. Keane left the park in the 23rd minute with a knock and Israel came back into the game with an unlikely looping header from debutante Yehiel after 39 minutes. When John O'Shea brought down Yossi Benayoun in the area on the stroke of half time Avi Nimni levelled matters from the spot, despite being forced to retake the kick.
The second half was an odd affair with Israel fighting to keep the Irish out. Keeper Dudu Awat had a remarkable game, looking as though he couldn't catch a cold but at the same time somehow managing to get his body in the way of everything the Irish could throw at him. One of these incidents led to Andy O'Brien being sent of for violent conduct; whether or not it was justified is debatable but Awat finished the game with cotton wads up both his nostrils to stem the flow of blood from either that incident or from John O'Shea kicking him in the face earlier.
Although they'll be annoyed at not taking advantage of the extra man, a draw is certainly a result that manager Avraham Grant would have been more than happy with going into tonight's game. A truly heroic, battling and in the case of Awat, miraculous performance.