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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2006, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Benitez relief at Reds late show
Rafael Benitez
Benitez had confidence in Gonzalez
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez believes his side's late winner against Maccabi Haifa has given the Reds a crucial edge in the Champions League qualifier.

Mark Gonzalez struck after 89 minutes to earn a 2-1 win for Liverpool as both teams bid for a place in the group stages of the competition.

Benitez said: "Here they wanted to play on the counter attack; now they need to score and will have to go forward.

"We have a little bit of an advantage, but we know they are a good team."

The second leg will take place on 23 August and Benitez believes his side will have improved their match fitness before the tie.

He added: "I am a little disappointed because we had a lot of possession and didn't make the most of it in the first half.

I am delighted for Mark to score on his debut, as I am for Bellamy

Rafa Benitez

"We hope to have players fitter for the second game. We had some players that have done just 15 days training, so it is hard to be fit."

Gonzalez and Craig Bellamy each scored on their competitive debuts after the Anfield side had gone behind to a Gustavo Boccoli goal.

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 was left to rue the late strike by the Chilean winger.

He 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."

SEE ALSO
Liverpool 2-1 Maccabi Haifa
09 Aug 06 |  Europe
Champions League photos
09 Aug 06 |  Football


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