Israel 3 Republic of Ireland 1
Israel ended any faint hope of the Republic of Ireland snaffling an Under-21 European Championship play-off spot by defeating Noel King’s side in Akko on Thursday.
Although Kieran O'Hara has established himself as Ireland's first-choice goalkeeper during the campaign, the Manchester United stopper (on loan at Macclesfield Town) was at fault for the crucial second Israel goal 13 minutes from the end by allowing Maxim Plakushchenko's dinked cross evade him in the air.
Chasing the game late on, Ireland were caught on the counter to concede a third in the sixth minute of injury time through Yonatan Cohen.
Earlier in the second half, Derry City striker Ronan Hale was only on the pitch for five minutes before he pounced on 64 minutes to cancel out Gavriel Kanichowsky 15th-minute opener.
After only picking up a point from last month’s double-header against Kosovo and table-toppers Germany, King’s crew required a maximum six points from their concluding couple of games.
They now head to Heidenheim on Tuesday for what will be a qualification parade for Germany once they avoid defeat against Norway on Friday.
King replaced the suspended Shaun Donnellan with Ryan Delaney at centre-back and his defence was tested from the outset.
Israel got their deserved opener when Neta Lavi’s cross was only half-cleared and Kanichowsky pounced to smash home.
O'Hara then denied Yonatan Cohen with a finger-tip save but Ryan Sweeney should have kept his header on target from a corner by debutant Jordan Shipley.
A much-improved second half performance by Ireland might have earned a penalty when Danny Kane was clearly hauled down in the box.
Hale’s introduction, however, provided the stimulus and he buried a shot past Assaf Tzur after the goalkeeper’s free-kick landed straight at his feet.
Chances fell to both sides, with Ronan Curtis going close and Mohammed Fani clipping the post at the other end.
Israel then regained the lead after O’Hara came but didn’t deal with Plakushchenko’s cross, the ball painfully sailing into the corner.
Right at the death, Cohen rubbed it in by skipping past a couple of Irish defender following Moti Barshazky’s lay-off and hammered in the third from close range.
ISRAEL: A Tzur; Y Meir, I Nachmias, A Bitton, Y Cohen; O Dasa (M Fani 65 mins), G Kanichowsky (M Plakushchenko 75 mins), N Lavi, M Barshazky (S Golan 87 mins), Y Cohen; S Weissman.
REP OF IRELAND: K O'Hara (Macclesfield Town); C Whelan (Crewe Alexandraw), R Sweeney (Mansfield Town), R Delaney (Rochdale), D Kane (AFC Flyde); J Cullen (Charlton Athletic), L Kinsella (Walsall); H Charsley (Everton), R Greco-Cox (Crawley Town), R Curtis (Portsmouth); J Shipley (Coventry City).
Subs: Ronan Hale (Derry City) for Shipley (59 mins), J Mulraney (Hearts) for Grego-Cox and J McGrath (Dundalk) for Delaney (both 85 mins).
Referee: Lawrence Visser (Belarus)