Sunday, November 11, 2007

Benayoun Doubtful For Israel

Yossi Benayoun is doubtful for Israel's Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia next Saturday.

The Liverpool midfielder suffered a groin problem during Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Fulham and Rafa Benitez does not expect him to be recover in time.

"Yossi has picked up an injury and it is very, very doubtful that he will join up with his country," said the Reds manager.

Benayoun is not required by Liverpool until the Premier League clash against Newcastle in a fortnight.

But he has cancelled the flight to link up with his international team-mates and will instead undergo a scan on Sunday.

If Benayoun is ruled out it will be a blow to not only Israel but also England, whose hopes of reaching Euro 2008 depend on Israel avoiding defeat against Russia.

If Russia beat Israel it is almost certain that England will miss out on a place in the finals, even if they beat Croatia the following Wednesday.

Israel cannot qualify for next summer's tournament in Austria and Switzerland.

Liverpool 2 - 0 Fulham

Fernando Torres returned to save Liverpool from another home disaster as brave Fulham had their hearts broken when they conceded twice in the final nine minutes.

For long spells it looked as if Lawrie Sanchez's resolute side would escape from Anfield with a point.

But Rafael Benitez sent on Torres with 20 minutes to go, and he broke the deadlock with a stunning individual goal before Steven Gerrard blasted home a late penalty after Peter Crouch had been tripped.

If Liverpool had slumped to yet another home draw - it would have been their fifth Premier League home stalemate - their title dreams would have been all but dead.

But Benitez paid £20m for Torres to score goals like this, and in the end Fulham just could not cope with the quality that kept appearing from Liverpool's bench.

There was an understandable air of expectation from both crowd and home players that there should be more goals almost on command following the 8-0 thumping of Besiktas in midweek, but Sanchez's men were intent on showing it is never as easy as that.

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy tested Jose Reina after just 14 seconds from 20 yards, and the same player forced Reina into a diving save on 15 minutes.

Sami Hyypia forced Antti Niemi into a full-length save to his left and Steven Gerrard saw a dipping 25 yarder flash over.

But Fulham were sharp and determined, and a lot better organised than Besiktas had been.

Aaron Hughes produced a fine last-ditch tackle to take the ball away from Crouch in the act of shooting, and Liverpool were finding it hard to create clear openings.

Murphy and Steven Davis were allowing little room for Liverpool's midfield to work in, while Shefki Kuqi and David Healy tirelessly toiled in attack for the visitors.

Crouch came closest in the first period when he hit the crossbar with a looping header from a Fabio Aurelio free-kick seconds from the break.

Two minutes into the second-half and Andriy Voronin forced Niemi into a low save to his right.

But Fulham's tackles and interceptions were still biting, and friendship meant nothing when Murphy tripped Gerrard from behind in full flow and was booked.

From the free-kick, Aurelio saw his fierce effort clawed away by Niemi, with Voronin firing the rebound over the top. Voronin then combined superbly with Crouch to burst into the box and see Niemi make another fine save.

Fulham took off Healy and sent on Hameur Bouazza to fill in a left-sided midfield role to contest the flow from Yossi Benayoun and Aurelio down that flank.

Liverpool responded by sending on Ryan Babel for Riise on 62 minutes.

His first involvement was to find Benayoun in space, but Niemi made another fine save from the Isreal international's lob. Benayoun's next touch was a fine pass into Voronin's stride, the Ukrainian's shot going just wide of the far post.

Voronin left the field soon after, a frustrated man after so many opportunities, to be replaced by Torres.

Fulham were now trying to hit on the break, attempting to turn an unlikely point into a miraculous victory.

Liverpool sent on Lucas for Javier Mascherano with ten minutes left, and within a minute the home side were finally ahead.

There was nothing pretty about the build-up, a 60-yard clearance from Reina's hands.

But Torres took it down brilliantly, side-stepped his way into the box and cleverly clipped his shot inside Niemi's near post, leaving the 'keeper flat-footed.

Then on 85 minutes, Liverpool got their second. Bocanegra tripped Crouch in the box and Gerrard crashed home the spot-kick.