Steven Davis strikes late on to earn Northern Ireland a draw in Israel
Captain ensures qualification campaign ends on a positive note for Michael O’Neill’s men
Northern Ireland goalscorer Steven Davis is put under pressure by Israel’s Eran Zahavi during last night’s World Cup Group F qualifier against Israel at the Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA
Israel 1 Northern Ireland 1
Steven Davis’s second-half strike ensured Northern Ireland’s disappointing World Cup campaign ended on a positive note with a draw in Israel last night. Captain Davis lashed home a powerful effort with 18 minutes left, responding to Eden Ben Basat’s headed opener from eight yards just before the break.
A share of the spoils represented a fair verdict in Tel Aviv and allowed Michael O’Neill’s men to banish some of the memories of defeats to Luxembourg and Azerbaijan.
Just four days after abandoning his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for 3-5-2 in Baku, O’Neill reverted to type. Personnel-wise there were no fewer than six changes, half unavoidable due to suspensions for Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Oliver Norwood.
The return of Chris Baird and Sammy Clingan in midfield ensured there would be no lack of experience.
The equaliser came after Clingan regained possession and begin an attack. Jamie Ward spotted the well-placed Davis arriving at the edge of the area and he buried a first-time shot that was left Aouate grasping at air.
Northern Ireland were energised, Ward shooting wide seconds after the restart and Martin Paterson’s volley beaten clear by the goalkeeper following Chris Brunt’s clever chip.
Lee Hodson, given licence to attack, hesitated when Davis’ header seemed to put him clear and from there on Israel were on top. They camped in Northern Ireland’s territory but a series of tackles and clearances ensured a deserved point.