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Israel beats Honduras in soccer at Citi Field

Israel celebrates a goal by Shimon Abuhatzira during

Israel celebrates a goal by Shimon Abuhatzira during the second half of an international friendly soccer match against Honduras at Citi Field. (June 2, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

The Citi Field crowd was decidedly pro-Honduran, perhaps outnumbering Israel fans by a 10-1 ratio. But that did not dampen the spirit of Israeli national coach Eli Guttman Sunday.

When he looked at the 26,170 spectators who witnessed the international friendly, he only saw the colors in the stands, not worrying about the loud, enthusiastic crowd. Both teams, after all, wear blue and white.

"I don't know. I saw 30,000 people -- blue and white," he said. "For me, it's good."

Guttman could have said the same thing about the result, a 2-0 Israeli win. For a team that will return home and go on vacation and not worry about a World Cup qualifier until September, the Israelis acquitted themselves well against a Honduran side that is preparing for three vital qualifying matches over the next 2 1/2 weeks.

"For me here in New York, what can I say more?" Guttman said. "I'm coming back to Israel with my head up."

The Israelis certainly did not look like a team ready to go on vacation, battling the Central Americans in a sometimes physical confrontation.

They added some style as their first goal turned out to be a brilliant individual effort when halftime substitute Hen Erza ripped a 30-yard shot into the near left post, which goalkeeper Noel Valladares had no chance to stop in the 52nd minute.

"People come to the stadium to see goals like this," Guttman said.

Shimon Abihazira added an insurance goal in the 76th minute, redirecting Felix Barda El Yaniv's left-wing feed from point-blank range for his first international goal.

"He deserved it because he made a difference," Guttman said. "He's a striker and he finally scored."

Honduras will use the loss as a building block for its upcoming qualifiers.

"It's a great opportunity for us to play against a team that plays in European qualifying," midfielder Roger Espinoza said, adding that Israel was "a great team to measure how good we are. Now we have to fix some things and do well over there in Costa Rica."

The Hondurans (1-1-1, four points), who are in fourth place in the CONCACAF hexagonal, begin with a visit to Costa Rica on Friday, followed by a home game against Jamaica on June 11 and a trip to Sandy, Utah, to face the United States on June 18. The top three teams will clinch a berth to the World Cup in Brazil next year with the fourth-place side playing the Oceania champion in a special playoff.

"If you ask me, I want to go for the nine points [three wins]," Espinoza said. "It's going to be very tough. We've got to get as many points as we can. Two of those [three games] are away games, that's obviously going to be very tough for us. We've got to worry about the first game."

The Hondurans made a fan out of Guttman, who has seen Mexico and the United States play.

"I don't know why, but I am rooting for them," he said.

New York Sports