Greece replaced Croatia at the top of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group F after a hard-earned 2-1 victory against Israel in Athens.
Dimitris Salpingidis put Fernando Santos's team men ahead in the 22nd minute with a neat lofted finish but Israel levelled 14 minutes after half-time when Greek defender Nikos Spyropoulos turned Roberto Colautti's cross past his own goalkeeper, Michalis Sifakis. However, Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis slotted home from the penalty spot just after the hour mark to clinch three points for the hosts, who now lead Croatia by a single point at the section summit.
Greece were forced into a change after just 15 minutes due to an injury to Sotiris Ninis, with Olympiacos FC teenager Giannis Fetfatzidis coming on for his second international appearance. However, that did not affect the hosts' gameplan as PAOK FC striker Salpingidis broke the deadlock, outpacing the Israel defence to control Pantelis Kafes's threaded pass before lifting the ball over Dudu Aouate and into the net.
Karagounis then tested Aouate's reflexes with a stinging shot from distance as the hosts sought to turn the screw. Israel's best chance to level came five minutes before half-time, but Lior Refaelov blazed his free-kick over. Fetfatzidis proved a constant threat in the second half for Greece with his superb dribbling and direct running, but he could not prevent Israel drawing level when Spyropoulos accidentally turned in Colautti's low cross under pressure from Etey Shechter.
That prompted a near-immediate response from Greece, Salpingidis surging into the penalty area before being upended by Aouate in the 63rd minute. From the resulting spot kick, Karagounis stroked the ball into the bottom right corner to put the home side back in front, and they held on to their lead comfortably.