Ward at the double
Keen to do one better than last time out against the same opposition, Wales started brightly, on the front foot from the off, Claire Skinner expecting a quiet night. Gemma Evans and Nadia Lawrence looked to cause problems on the left from early on with Jess Fishlock happily tying play together and dictating from midfield.
Sustained pressure from the hosts saw them take an early lead, with Helen Ward ghosting into the box to get on the end of Sophie Ingle’s lofted ball, Merav Shamir made an ill-advised dart off of her line. Always first to the ball, the finish was a simple one for Wales’ all-time leading goalscorer, easing the ball under Shamir and into the back of the net.
With the game starting to open up and get bitty it was of little surprise when Ward doubled the lead just after the half hour. With space to turn after receiving the flick-on, the Reading striker rifled the ball into the far corner to leave Shamir clutching at air.
The hosts went into the break the team on top, though neither side had seen much goalmouth action, Wales only boasting three shots on target and Israel yet to register their first shot of any kind. The game frequently slowed down as players opted to go narrow with the width begging.
Looking for a stronger second-half, Israel fired out of the blocks, eager to test the home defence, enjoying their best spell just after the restart. But, much like the first, it was possession without product, the Welsh back-line holding firm, Skinner largely a spectator. Shrugging the pressure off, the Dragons once more began to exert themselves into the game, penning blue shirts back into their half.
Substitute Charlie Estcourt added her name to the scoresheet after receiving Natasha Harding’s pass in the box. With barely an inch to turn, the young attacker showed great close-control to shift the ball between her feet as she turned and fired low into the far corner, just as Ward had done in the first-half.
With Israel drifting further and further out of the game as the time wore on, the challenges grew more and more robust, the hosts carrying a perpetual threat and the visitors labouring to deal with the danger. But Shamir was in fine form, firstly saving Rachel Rowe’s glanced header before emphatically saving Fishlock’s late penalty.
Whilst the game wasn’t a classic and there were issues for both teams, once again Wales’ steady progression is clear to see. The Dragons much evolved from the side that kicked off qualifying with a 3-0 loss to Austria 51 weeks ago.