After The Match 


Liverpool-Maccabi Haifa 2-1 (1-1)  09.08.06  CL qual. (3r-1leg)
Goals: Bellamy (33), Gonzalez (88)                  Boccoli (29)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso, Zenden, Pennant, Bellamy
Subs: Garcia (Zenden 55), Crouch (Bellamy 64),
Gonzalez (Gerrard 85)
Not used: Dudek, Kromkamp, Paletta, Peltier
Yellow: Sissoko (63)           Magrashvili (39), Colautti (78)
Red: None
Referee: W Stark
Attendance: 40,058
Shots on target:
Shots off target:
Fouls conceded:


HEADLINES  “We knew Mark was capable of goals..."
    Rafael Benitez

1008: Gonzalez hails dream debut
0908: Benitez hints at striker move
0908: Gerrard: We'll be better in the return
0908: Newcomer scores winner for Reds


Gonzalez hails dream debut

By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports

New Liverpool hero Mark Gonzalez has admitted his debut against Maccabi Haifa was a dream come true.

Gonzalez came off the bench to score Liverpool's winner in the 2-1 victory over Maccabi in their UEFA Champions League qualifier.

The Chilean winger, who has had to wait for over a year to make the move to Liverpool because of work permit problems, was delighted with his debut.

"It was my dream come true today in Anfield," Gonzalez told Sky Sports News. "A great debut.

"I think it's great, that is everybody's dream.

"It's just the beginning, we haven't won nothing yet.

"We just have to keep working hard and get all the championships that I would like to have.

"For me, it was a long year waiting for a work permit, so to play my first game and score is something very special for me and for my family.

"So I'm very, very happy.

"We didn't feel the pressure of all the supporters, but we're Liverpool and we always have to win and show the people we have to be in the Champions League."

Jermaine Pennant also impressed on his debut and the former Birmingham man was happy with his showing.

"It's fantastic, I'm lost for words," admitted Pennant. "Seeing the fans and seeing The Kop, playing against great players.

"It was a great start. We got off to a winning start, that's what we wanted.

"It gave me a good base for a good debut and we got that.

"It's important to get that in the Champions League.''

Benitez hints at striker move

Rafael Benitez praised match-winner Mark Gonzalez after tonight’s Champions League qualifying victory over Maccabi Haifa – then revealed he is close to signing a new striker.

Chilean winger Gonzalez scored the winner within moments of coming on for his debut in the 2-1 third qualifying round first-leg win at Anfield

Liverpool had been forced to battle back from a goal down after Gustavo Boccoli struck with Craig Bellamy – also on his debut – equalising soon after.

But the glaring need for more forward options was obvious and speculation continues that Liverpool are closer to signing £10m-rated Holland international Dirk Kuyt.

Yet even though Benitez now has an extra £2m from selling Djimi Traore to Charlton, he remained cagey.

He said: “We have two or three names, Kuyt is one. We are still working hard but maybe a little closer.”

Gonzalez’s goal saved Liverpool from a potentially tricky second leg at a neutral venue.

It seems the choice is now between Cyprus or Kiev but Liverpool’s group stage hopes are still on knife edge wherever the game is played.

Benitez said: “We knew Mark was capable of goals, he has shown that in La Liga. It was not a gamble to take off Steven Gerrard, we have players from the World Cup who are 15 days behind the rest in their training.

“We wanted some extra pace, and that is why I brought on Gonzalez. I am delighted for him to score on his debut, as I am for Bellamy.”

Haifa coach Roni Levy said: “I am disappointed with this result, especially after taking the lead.

“To concede two goals like that has made it hard. We would have a better chance if the second leg was in Tel Aviv, but at least only a 2-1 deficit means that we can still dream of what might be in the future.

“For us, a small club, to take the lead at a big club like this was exceptional. We felt that we worked hard and deserved more, a draw would really have given our dreams a boost.”

Gerrard: We'll be better in the return

By Paul Rogers - LFC Official Website

Despite winning on the night thanks to a late goal from Mark Gonzalez, Steven Gerrard believes that Maccabi Haifa won't see the real Liverpool until the two sides meet again in a fortnight's time at a venue still to be decided by UEFA.

Debut strikes in either half from Craig Bellamy - cancelling out a shock 29th minute opener from Gustavo Boccoli - and substitute Gonzalez in the 88th minute were enough to see Liverpool clinch an absolutely essential victory on Wednesday night at Anfield but the Reds captain insists the team are still to really find their feet after a difficult pre-season.

"We made hard work of it I suppose," admitted Gerrard after the final whistle. "But we go there winning 2-1 and they have got to beat us. We can still improve, we are still looking for 100% fitness. It was hard work out there.

"We've got another two weeks' training and we'll be a better side come the second leg. [The goals were] what we bought Craig for and Mark came on towards the end and got the vital goal. That's what we bought them for."

Newcomer scores winner for Reds

Mark Gonzalez took a long time getting to Liverpool – over a year of red tape and work permit trouble – but he was only on the field for three minutes of his debut before scoring what could be a priceless winner.

Liverpool, though, still know that the £10million-plus of Champions League money that comes from group stage qualification is hanging by a thread wherever they have to play the second leg of this third qualifying round tie.

One more performance as shot-shy as this third qualifying round first leg clash at Anfield and they could miss out on a lucrative Champions League run.

The Reds made hard work of the game. Gustavo Boccoli stunned Anfield by putting the Israelis ahead but Craig Bellamy, also on his debut, bagged an equaliser soon after.

Yet from then on it was painful for Liverpool fans until boss Rafael Benitez gambled on taking off his skipper Steven Gerrard with five minutes left.

Three minutes later Gonzalez was engulfed by delirious colleagues after scoring a valuable winner.

Benitez had opted to leave England striker Peter Crouch on the bench and elected for Bellamy on his own up front.

It gave Gerrard a forward role and saw another new man, Jermaine Pennant, having plenty of the ball on the right.

It seemed clear from the start that Liverpool were acutely aware of the need for victory but Haifa, already denied home advantage in the second leg, were intent on making life difficult.

Bellamy had three central defenders to deal with but was a bundle of effort, pace and running from the off.

Pennant got plenty of service, but without Crouch to aim at, there was little of a target for the ex-Birmingham man.

Haifa skipper Yaniv Katan, back with the club after an unsuccessful spell at West Ham, was used on the right with Argentinian striker Roberto Colautti roaming free up front on his own.

John Arne Riise saw a 25-yarder fizz wide of the far post and Jamie Carragher, following a free-kick, was next to try his luck, forcing Nir Davidovitch to save to his left.

But with all their possession Liverpool created little, and it was Haifa who stunned the home fans by taking the lead on 28 minutes.

And they cut through the centre of Liverpool’s defence far too easily. Boccoli ran from deep and played a pass inside to Colautti, whose return sent the Brazilian racing through on his own to guide his shot into the far bottom corner.

But the lead lasted just four minutes. Pennant, Gerrard and Mohamed Sissoko combined, with the latter seeing his 20-yarder palmed into the path Bellamy to calmly fire home.

Liverpool toiled away at the beginning of the second half but little was going right. Much was breaking down around Bolo Zenden and it was no surprise when he was taken off on 55 minutes.

Luis Garcia entered the fray with Gerrard moving to a right-sided role and the little Spaniard pushed in behind Bellamy.

But Liverpool were short of ideas, unless they were aimed at Bellamy’s darting runs.

Liverpool desperately needed clear water between themselves and the Israelis but they could easily have gone behind again when Colautti saw a header bounce just wide.

Sissoko was booked for a foul on Boccoli, Liverpool’s frustrations getting stronger. The Haifa midfielder was eventually carried off, only to jog back on almost immediately.

Then on 65 minutes Liverpool sent on Crouch for Bellamy, still with Gerrard wide. The angle of attack now a few feet higher with Bellamy off.

Crouch saw a header saved by Davidovitch from a Carragher cross as Liverpool now piled forward and came from wide again, this time from a Steve Finnan cross.

The method of attack by now was one-dimensional but was having more effect than anything previously seen.

Luis Garcia weaved his way through and sent in a low cross that Crouch failed to react quickly enough to. Colautti was booked for dissent before Pennant saw a deflected free-kick saved superbly by a wrong-footed Davidovitch. It was hard to see Liverpool breaking through.

Then Benitez sent on Gonzalez for Gerrard on 85 minutes, Haifa replacing Katan with Maor Melicsohn.

And three minutes later the Chile international struck what could be a crucial goal. Xabi Alonso’s ball in from the right found its way to Gonzalez, and although he slipped, he was able to regain his feet and clip the ball into the far corner.

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Thor Zakariassen ©