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