The Israeli soccer national team registered one of the greatest victories in its history, demolishing a hapless Austria five goals to two Wednesday night and on its journey to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Playing in front of a 12,000-strong crowd in Haifa's 30,000-seat Sammy Ofer Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Blue and Whites gave the home fans a night to remember.
It was visitors Austria who opened the match in high gear and charged at Ofir Marciano's goal. But that enthusiasm was short-lived as Israeli winger Manor Solomon cut inside the rival side's box and sent a right-footed thunderbolt right into Daniel Bachman's top bins.
The visitors answered almost immediately with a goal of their own after Austria's Konrad Laimer capitalized on a defensive blunder on the Israeli side, only to be called off by VAR moments later for an unintentional handball.
Reacting to that let-off, Mu'nas Dabbur slotted home Israel's second of the night, finishing off a brilliant team effort twenty minutes into the match.
Just minutes later, the crowd in Sammy Ofer went absolutely ballistic as Israeli marksman Eran Zahavi tripled the lead with a virtuoso finish after being gifted possession by a shaky Austria defense.
Minutes before the break, Austria managed to salvage some battered pride and get on the scoresheet thanks to a fine Cristoph Baumgartner chip over Marciano in the Israeli goal.
After halftime, Austrian ace Marko Arnautović sought to inspire his side to a comeback, driving an unstoppable left-footed belter from outside the 18-yard-box past the Israeli keeper to make it 3–2.
The visitors were hoping to seize a golden opportunity to tie the score, which prompted Israel's coach Willi Ruttensteiner to throw Mohammad Abu Fani and Shon Weissman into the fray. The latter did not need more than two minutes to double the home side's lead with his debut goal for the national team.
Weissman's firecracker took the wind out of the Austrian side's sails and the game shifted to low gear until the final minutes.
In the match's dying embers, Israeli forward Dolev Haziza sent a fine pass into the Austrian box after a short corner — cutting through the visiting side's defense like a hot knife through butter — and met Zahavi who sealed the score with an easy tap-in.
Israel took home all three points, bagging ten points in five matches and taking it ever closer to the qualification playoffs. The Blue and Whites now sits comfortably second in Group F behind a still-perfect Denmark before the two sides meet on Tuesday.