Greece continue to set the pace at the top of Group F with a deserved 1-0 win in Tel Aviv which dealt a severe blow to Israel's UEFA EURO 2012 hopes.
Panathinaikos FC midfielder Sotiris Ninis scored the crucial goal on the hour after brilliantly charging through the Israel defence after Greece had caught the hosts napping in midfield. With their second victory over third-placed Israel in this campaign, Fernando Santos's side moved four points clear of their opponents with a game in hand, and also kept second-placed Croatia trailing in their wake.
Israel had an early chance when Lior Rafaelov was played in on the left edge of the penalty area after seven minutes but he had his shot blocked as he closed in on goal. That was as good as it got for Luis Fernandez's team in a tight first half. Although Rafaelov tried to open up the play with incursions infield from the right, he kept running into a wall of Greek bodies, while Israel's new Arsenal FC signing, Yossi Benayoun, struggled to get a look-in.
The best opportunity came at the other end when Dimitris Salpingidis connected on the volley with a ball swung in from the right but a fully stretched Dudu Aouate was equal to it. That was midway through the first half and eight minutes after the restart, Greece threatened again as Giorgos Samaras had a diving header cleared off the line.
That prompted action from Israel coach Fernandez who immediately sent on Omer Damari and Tomer Hemed for Eran Zahavi and Etey Shechter. Two minutes later Hemed spurned the opportunity to make an immediate impact, heading wide after Benayoun had delivered a brilliant floated cross from the right. Instead it was Greece who got the breakthrough goal on the hour when Israel's midfield allowed Ninis to run at the left side of the defence before he firing a brilliant shot inside Aouate's right-hand post.
Despite a series of corners and free-kicks, Israel failed to threaten a reply until the 81st minute when Hemed headed over the crossbar. Finally they had some attacking momentum and came close when Yuval Shpungin, arguably their biggest threat during the second half, charged down the right and found Rafaelov who smashed over a first-time shot from 15 metres.