• Israel open their Group B campaign with victory in Cyprus
• The younger Tal Ben Haim sets up first for Omer Damari then scores second
• Constantinos Makridis pulls one back
• Late Vincent Laban effort is saved to keep Cyprus on three points
• Next games: Wales v Cyprus, Andorra v Israel (Monday)
Israel opened their UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group B account with a hard-fought victory in Cyprus.
Cyprus, buoyed by their confidence-boosting win in Bosnia and Herzegovina last month, began the brighter with Dimitris Christofi making darting runs behind the Israeli defence. But it was not long before the younger of the Tal Ben Haims started looking increasingly dangerous on the left and he inflicted the first real damage on 38 minutes.
The Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC forward raced past marker Marios Stylianou before supplying a great low cross that Omer Damari converted with a cool finish. Another free-flowing move saw the visitors – whose scheduled opener against Belgium last month was postponed – snatch a second moments before half-time. Gil Vermouth fed the unmarked Ben Haim who then proceeded to skip past Marios Nikolaou and Stylianou before finding Antonis Giorgallides's left-hand corner.
Cyprus coach Charalampos Christodoulou made two changes at the restart, bringing on the speedy Charis Kyriakou and Pieros Sotiriou, and each player began asking questions of the Israel defence. The hosts piled bodies forward but looked vulnerable to Israel counterattacks, with both Vermouth and Eran Zahavi coming agonisingly close to adding a third.
Cyprus were eventually rewarded for their persistence. Sotiriou collected a pass inside the area and kept his composure to turn and tee up the unmarked Constantinos Makridis who rifled a powerful shot past Ofir Marciano. Minutes later – and with the fans having found their voice again – Cyprus almost equalised, Christofi's cross reaching Sotiriou who steered his header wide from close range.
The drama then swayed to the other end where the lively Zahavi's deflected effort crashed off the post before the same player missed another decent opportunity. In added time Vincent Laban so nearly levelled but Marciano kept out his header.