Greece moved to the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group F tonight with a hard-earned victory over Israel following a closely contested encounter at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Athens.
Dimitris Salpingidis opened the scoring in the 22nd minute but Israel pulled level just after half-time when Greek defender Nikolaos Spyropoulos turned Roberto Coluatti's cross past his own goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.
Greece captain Georgios Karagounis netted from the penalty spot just after the hour mark to clinch three points for the hosts, however, who now lead Croatia by a single point at the group summit.
Unlike Friday's game against Latvia, Greece were slow out of the blocks and immediately came under pressure from the Israelis.
Things got worse for Fernando Santos' men in the 16th minute when winger Sotiris Ninis had to limp off. He was replaced by Olympiakos youngster Yiannis Fetfatzidis, who showed more glimpses of his exceptional talent throughout.
After a quiet opening, Salpigidis broke the deadlock, racing on to Pantelis Kafes' measured pass before lofting the ball over Dudu Aouate. Greece looked comfortable at that point, with Israel's best chance to level coming five minutes before half-time when Refaelov blazed a free-kick over.
Fetfatzidis was providing the home side with a constant outlet on the left but the next goal came from the visitors' left flank in the 59th minute, Spyropoulos accidentally turning Colautti's low cross past Sifakis under pressure from Etey Schecther.
Fortunately for the home crowd, the equaliser prompted an immediate response from Greece, Salpingidis surging into the penalty area before being brought down by Aouate.
This left Swedish referee Martin Hansson with no option but to point to the spot and Karagounis stepped up and stroked the ball into the bottom right corner to put the home side back in front.
The Israelis, however, were not put off by the brevity of their comeback and in the 65th minute they came within inches of an equaliser of their own as Gil Vermouth, who had just come on as a substitute, hit the post with a shot from the edge of the area.
Greece had a great chance to put the match beyond doubt with a quarter of an hour to go when Fetfatzidis played a defence splitting for Loukas Vyntra but the defender's finish was straight into the Aoate's arms.