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Live Commentary: Israel 2-2 Norway - as it happened

Sports Mole's minute-by-minute of the European Under-21 Championship opener between Israel and Norway, which featured four goals and a red card.
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Hosts Israel got their first European Under-21 Championship for six years underway this afternoon with a Group A clash with Norway.

Israel started slowly but went ahead courtesy of a precise penalty from Nir Briton after 19 minutes.

Norway quickly equalised through Marcus Pedersen, but were reduced to 10 men just before the break as Vegar Hedenstad was dismissed for a late challenge.

Israel took advantage to reclaim the lead when Alon Turgeman smashed home, but a wonderful strike deep into stoppage time from Harmeet Singh ensured the match finished level.

Look back at a tournament opener full of excitement and incident with Sports Mole's minute-by-minute commentary below.


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Afternoon European football fans. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for live coverage from the opening match of what promises to be an exciting European Under-21 Championship. First up today is a clash between hosts Israel and Norway as both sides bid for a flying start in Group A.

Israel have been handed the chance to prove their worth at youth level, qualifying for the first time since 2007 by virtue of hosting the tournament. Coach Guy Luzon will be under pressure to deliver a competitive side, which will kick off their campaign at a sold-out stadium in Netanya today.

Norway dispatched France in a two-legged qualifier to reach the European finals for the first time since finishing third in 1998. The Norwegians finished second in a qualifying group featuring England and will be confident of starting with a positive result this afternoon.

Strangely for the visitors they will begin the tournament without the manager that led them to this stage. Per Joar Hansen left to take charge of Rosenborg late last year, with assistant Tor Ole Skullerud promoted to coach his young charges for the finals.

BREAKING TEAM NEWS! News of today's starting XIs provides a real boost for Israel, with captain Nir Biton fit to lead his side out this afternoon. A full look at both teams will follow in just a few moments.

ISRAEL: Kleyman, Dasa, Gotlib, Twatha, Ben Harush, Kabha, Biton, Golasa, Kalibat, Dabbur, Barouch

NORWAY: Nyland Haskjold, Strandberg, Hedenstad, De Lanlay, Konradssen, Eikrem, Johansen, Elabdellaoui, Berget, Pedersen, Semb Berge

Biton's inclusion is crucial for Israel in central midfield. In-form forward duo Orr Barouch and Munas Dabbur have also both recovered from niggling injuries to lead the line in attack, which means the hosts are just about at full strength for today's match.

Norway have decided not to risk former Celtic defender Thomas Rogne this evening, with the centre-back struggling with a stomach virus. The 22-year-old has been left on the bench today, perhaps with one eye on matches against England and Italy next week.

Norway coach Skullerud has also had his side forcibly weakened for the first two matches of the tournament, with four players called up to the senior squad for a World Cup qualifier. Joshua King and Håvard Nordtveit are among the experienced squad members missing, with the pair not available until their final group match.

PREDICTION! At the risk of being labelled a killjoy I don't think Israel will be strong enough to give the home crowd a victory tonight. Their opening match does represent the best chance of a positive result, but Norway have a relatively experienced squad that I think will prevail 2-1 today!

A rousing rendition of the Israeli national anthem is complete and we are just about ready to get the European Under-21 Championship underway. We were told before kick-off that this match is a sell-out and a compact, modern stadium looks just about full before kickoff.

Norway get the match and indeed the tournament underway, shooting from left to right. The visitors instantly look for top scorer Pedersen with a long, diagonal pass, but Tawatha is well placed to cover and clears safely into touch.

Plenty of commitment in the tackle early on, with Norway establishing a spell of possession deep in their own half with a patient approach. Israel are quickly under pressure from a free kick, which they clear rather unconvincingly at the third time of asking. Norway should really have made more of their physical advantage from that set-piece, with the hosts off the hook for now.

Israel look a neat and tidy side on the ball with defensive deficiencies in the early stages. A poor crossfield pass has Norway on the attack once more, with Pedersen just failing to find Berget in the final third with a misplaced pass.

A strong interception from Dasa has Israel in possession just inside the opposition half. His poor pass down the line quickly gifts Norway the chance to counter, with the visitors aiming a long pass out wide to De Lanyay.

Pedersen gets his first sight of goal after intercepting a poor clearance from Tawatha. His low strike is deflected wide for a corner kick, but the chance to get numbers forward is wasted as Israel are awarded a foul for pushing in the penalty area.

SHOT! Norway definitely look more comfortable in possession in the early going, stretching the match with a direct, wide approach. A driving run into the final third from De Lanyay sees him find Berget just outside the penalty area. He decides to shoot quickly, forcing a smart stop from Kleyman with a powerful, low strike towards the bottom corner.

PENALTY TO ISRAEL! Israel are really struggling to establish any kind of sustained possession in this match, but win a corner kick after Barouch forces Strandberg to head behind from a goal kick. From the corner Elabdellaoui clumsily launches into a challenge, conceding a penalty kick!

GOAL! Israel 1-0 Norway (Biton)

And against the run of play Israel have taken a surprise lead. The hosts to their skipper Biton to take the penalty, and his composed strike nestles safely into the bottom corner, sending Nyland the wrong away. Deadlock broken and Norway look stunned.

Norway have responded positively to that shock setback, pressing forward to win a corner kick. Hedenstad's delivery is a disappointment for the visitors, with Gutliv able to scramble clear.

GOAL! Israel 1-1 Norway (Pedersen)

A clinical, measured finish from Pedersen has just grabbed Norway a deserved equaliser. The forward bullied his marker from a hopeful cross into the penalty area, turning into space and firing quickly into the bottom corner. That goal is the least Norway deserve for a positive start, despite that early penalty setback.

Israel are nearly caught cold again from the restart, with Dasa's important late block just denying Pedersen the chance to shoot from close range. A quick break from the hosts has Barouch appealing for another spot kick, but his rather hopeful protest is quickly turned away by the Polish referee.

OFF THE BAR! Norway go within inches of taking the lead through Konradssen, who strikes the woodwork with a curling effort from distance. Kleyman was beaten all ends up by that strike, but a looping central effort unluckily comes back off the crossbar. Ominous signs here for Israel, who are being outnumbered consistently in central midfield.

OFF THE POST! Just a minute later Norway have struck the post, ripping the home defence apart with precise passing and movement in the final third. Berget made a clever run from right to left inside the penalty area, shooting first time and seeing his instinctive low effort fly back off the near post. That was so unfortunate for Norway, who will surely take the lead if they maintain this approach.

YELLOW CARD! A very late sliding challenge from Konradsen forces the referee to produce the game's first caution. Meanwhile Israel have been forced into an early change though injury, with Kabha replaced by Krieff in midfield.

Berget just misses a long ball over the top after another marauding run inside the penalty area from deep. Israel then decide to play the ball out from defence, but Tawatha's attempt at a quick pass out wide is blocked by De Lanlay.

RED CARD! A huge moment in the match has changed everything as Norway are reduced to 10 men. Hedenstad was caught out by a quick burst from Kalibat and brought down the striker with a challenge from behind, around 25 yards from goal. The referee takes his time before deciding the full-back denied a clean run on goal, producing a straight red card for the offence. What a boost for the hosts, who will now the play the rest of this match with a man advantage.

Despite their numerical disadvantage Norway should really have just taken the lead. De Lanlay darted inside to meet a long bass before controlling quickly in the penalty area. With the goal at his mercy the winger scuffed a strike off balance, with his low shot trickling wide from eight yards. What a chance for the visitors to snatch a lead they richly deserve before the interval.

HALF-TIME Israel 1-1 Norway

What a strange and thoroughly entertaining first half in this European Championship opener. Norway completely dominated the opening period but despite being level at 1-1 must now be considered second favourites to win this match after Hedenstad's red card, for a late challenge just before the break.

A quick piece of news to report with a yellow card issued just before the break. Barouch initially looked to have got away with a warning for his late tackle on Standberg, but after arguing with the official is eventually cautioned.

Norway largely controlled possession and territory in that first 45 minutes, but failed to make to turn that dominance into an advantage on the scoreboard. Israel have also got the benefit of the doubt with a pair of contentious decisions, with their penalty award definitely debatable.

After getting a slice of luck on two occasions the challenge for Israel is to turn their man advantage into three precious points. Minus fleeting flash touches from Biton and Barouch the hosts and looked lightweight in possession so far tonight. Defensive naivety also looks a problem, with clever movement regularly catching Dasa and Tawatha off guard.

Expect Norway to remain a potent threat on the counter when play resumes, with Pedersen, De Lanlay and Berket all looking lively in the first half.

SUBSTITUTION: Norway have decided to sacrifice De Lanlay for a more solid approach at the interval, bringing on Molde defender Linnes. Very early in the second half Israel midfielder Golasa becomes the third player cautioned for a nasty lunge on Elabdellaoui.

OFF THE POST! For the third time in the match Norway have just seen a shot come back off the frame of the goal. Konradsen's strike from range took a huge deflection before hitting the foot of the post and flying wide of Kleyman's goal. Yet again Israel are let off the hook and are definitely riding their luck this evening.

Great approach play from Israel gives the hosts a rare sight of goal. Kalibat met a pass across the penalty area from Dabbur, but could only force Nyland to make a comfortable save with a tame shot towards the bottom corner. The hosts must make more of chances to take the lead when created in this second period.

Israel are just starting to take control of the match, using their man advantage to stretch the match. With time to cross out wide Kalibat's delivery is well below par and allows Strandberg to clear his lines with authority.

The visitors break forward and find Pedersen just outside the penalty area. The goalscorer has space to shoot but elects to take an extra touch, running into traffic and a timely interception from Dasa.

SUBSTITUTION: Israel are forced into a change before defending a free kick, with Turgeman replacing forward Barouch, who looks to be carrying an injury problem. When play resumes Pedersen meets the set piece unmarked, but ends up heading over in space from eight yards. What a chance spurned for Norway!

MISS! Just a minute later Pedersen is presented with a wonderful opportunity to get his second and give Norway the lead. The forward slipped behind Ben Harush to meet a forward pass, but with space to shoot lashes a powerful effort towards the near post. Kleyman deserves credit for rushing out to make the save, but the forward will know he must score gilt-edged chances like that at this level.

The 10 men of Norway are starting to build pressure from the back, with full-back Elabdellaoui breaking forward to flash a dangerous cross into the penalty area. Israel just about manage to scramble clear, with Linnes smashing over from distance on the follow-up.

A delay in play as Israel skipper Briton goes down with what looks like cramp. The hosts desperately need the former Manchester City trialist to recover quickly and return to the match, but he looks unlikely to continue.

CHANCE! With Briton back Israel have just created a gilt-edged chance to take the lead. Dabbur did brilliantly to control a cutback off-balance, but from six yards somehow managed to blaze a high shot over the crossbar. You feel that was a chance Israel had to take after carving Norway's defence wide open for the first time tonight.

GOAL! Israel 2-1 Norway (Turgeman)

A controlled volley from the substitute Turgeman has fired Israel ahead in this Group A opener. The forward reacted quickest after Krieff's shot was blocked in the penalty area, smashing into the bottom corner to give Nyland no chance of stopping a measured effort. What a moment for the hosts, who are now on the verge of their first ever victory in this tournament.

SUBSTITUTION: Just moments after going ahead Israel have decided not to take any further risk with Briton. The captain has been struggling and is replaced with the fresh legs of Zaguri in central midfield. Meanwhile Norway have an injury concern with Berget, who is down following a clash of heads and appears to be bleeding.

SUBSTITUTIONS: Norway have decided to make a double change as they desperately search for a late equaliser. Berget is unable to continue and is replaced by Nielsen, while pacy winger Singh also comes on for Konradssen. It's now or never for the visitors.

Norway look tired late on and have resorted to more direct approach out of necessity. Singh initially does well to slip past two defenders just outside the penalty area before finding Pedersen. The forward has little on and decides to shoot, firing straight into Kleyman's arms from 20 yards.

SAVE! Slack defending from Israel nearly gifts Norway an equaliser. The hosts failed to deal with a lofted free kick from Johansen as Pedersen flicked towards goal from eight yards. Kleyman was initially caught by surprise but made a crucial adjustment, parrying behind with a smart stop from point-blank range. The goalkeeper is furious with his defence and rightfully so!

Pedersen has a penalty appeal turned down after tussling with Gutliv, with Israel quick to take advantage and break in numbers. A neat interchange from Zaguri and Dabbur looks to have the hosts through on goal, but Zaguri just fails to apply the finish from inside the penalty area.

GOAL! Israel 2-2 Norway (Singh)

Norway's search for an equaliser bears fruit in stoppage time thanks to a finish of genuine quality from Singh. The substitute met Nielsen's chested pass and struck a ferocious drive into the bottom corner first time from 20 yards. What a moment for Norway, who definitely deserve a point for their efforts this evening.

Israel look crestfallen after conceding that equaliser and must regroup in the final seconds. Neither side is able to keep possession late on and this match looks to be heading for a draw.

FULL-TIME Israel 2-2 Norway

In the end a thoroughly entertaining start to the tournament finishes honours even. Norway hit the woodwork three times and easily deserved to earn a point, which came courtesy of a wonderful strike in stoppage time from Singh.

Our live coverage of the Under-21 showpiece now moves on quickly to the other Group A clash tonight, which features England's opener against Italy. You can follow that tie with Sports Mole live text commentary from my colleague Matt Law by clicking here.

That just about does it for minute-by-minute commentary of Israel's clash with Norway. Thanks for your time and good evening!

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Israel's Rami Gershon on February 29, 2012
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