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Israel complete Latvia double

Latvia 1-2 Israel
Israel earned a first Group F away win by beating Latvia for the second time in just over two months to move back level on points with Croatia.

Tal Ben Haim takes the plaudits for his penalty
Tal Ben Haim takes the plaudits for his penalty ©Getty Images

Goals from Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben Haim sent Israel on their way to a second UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying victory against Latvia which moved them back level on points with second-placed Croatia in Group F.

Israel went ahead on 19 minutes through Benayoun and just before the break defender Tal Ben Haim doubled the visitors' advantage from the penalty spot. Although Aleksandrs Cauņa's penalty gave Latvia a glimmer of hope, Israel comfortably held on for a result that matched Croatia's win the previous day against Georgia. The pair are still a point behind Greece, though, and Israel have played a game more.

Having defeated Latvia 2-1 in Tel Aviv on 26 March, Israel were looking to complete the double over their Group F rivals but it was the home team who had the first meaningful attempt of the match, Cauņa's low cross drifting agonisingly past Artjoms Rudņevs's outstretched boot two metres out.

It did not take long, though, for Israel to assert themselves and they were unlucky not to be ahead when Maor Bar Buzaglo's audacious long-range lob came back off the frame of the goal. With just 17 caps between Maksims Rafaļskis and Artis Lazdiņš in Latvia's midfield, Israel's greater experience began to show.

Benayoun gave the visitors the lead with a first-time shot after some incisive passing caused havoc in the home box. Israel right-back Yuval Shpungin kept surging forward and this led to the second goal when he was felled by Lazdiņš in the Latvia penalty area just before the break, Ben Haim stepping up to make it 2-0.

Latvia emerged stronger from the interval, forcing Israel to concentrate on counterattacks. Home substitute Jurijs Žigajevs produced a fine save from Dudu Aouate with a long-range effort before Almog Cohen's handball allowed Cauņa to score from the spot and give the home team a lifeline.

But although Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs introduced 23-year-old striker Edgars Gauračs for his first cap, there were few clear-cut chances for an equaliser. In fact, it was Israel who continued to attack with menace, Tomer Hemed and Eran Zahavi drawing the best out of Latvia goalkeeper Andris Vaņins.

Latvia did have a late chance but Ritus Krjauklis's added-time header was cleared off the line. That was a relief for Israel as they look to the crucial 2 September visit of section leaders Greece, when fifth-placed Latvia go to Georgia.