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British press hail 'miracle in the Holy Land'

British newspapers lavished praise on the Israeli football team Sunday after they beat Russia 2-1 in "a miracle in the Holy Land" which keeps the door open for England to qualify for Euro 2008.

sports Updated: Nov 18, 2007 08:43 IST

British newspapers lavished praise on the Israeli football team Sunday after they beat Russia 2-1 in "a miracle in the Holy Land" which keeps the door open for England to qualify for Euro 2008.

Many British papers had been sceptical, though hopeful, about the chance of an Israeli win and encouraged their readers to support the team, with the Sun newspaper even publishing a "Come On Israel" supplement Saturday.

But they were delighted to have been proved wrong Sunday and hailed Israel while saying that England lived to fight another day in the tournament only by luck.

"Elylujah!" exclaimed the headline in the News of the World tabloid, which said that Elyaniv Barda's first goal for his country in Tel Aviv had thrown England a "Euro lifeline".

"Steve McClaren's Euro prayers were sensationally answered in Tel Aviv last night by two Israeli novices," its report said.

"McClaren owed his drink in the last-chance saloon to Israel strikers Barda and Golan."

The Sunday Telegraph said that Israel's performance had "shamed all of us who believed that a Russian victory here was preordained."

"England's prayers for a miracle in the Holy Land that would resurrect their Euro 2008 qualifying hopes were answered in spectacular style," it said.

"Israel, whose own dreams of making the finals had already evaporated, may have had nothing to play for in competitive terms.

"But, their pride wounded by all the stories that they would lie down like lambs, they also realised that they had nothing to lose and for their young players handed a rare opportunity to enter their country's football folklore, everything to gain."

The headline in the Sunday Times broadsheet -- "Lucky England" -- reflected the sense of surprised relief in many of the papers.

"From a position of near-despair, Steve McClaren and his team, however, are suddenly favourites to go through to the finals next summer with Croatia, after being gifted a sensational favour by Israel, who defied the odds ... to defeat the Russians," it said.

"England's prayers are answered" was the Mail on Sunday tabloid's take on the result.

It predicted that McClaren would lose his job if England now fail to qualify by losing to Croatia this week.