Benayoun backs Liverpool to complete job
Goalscorer Yossi Benayoun believes nobody should have been surprised to see Liverpool FC collect a 1-0 victory at Real Madrid CF on Wednesday, given the Merseysiders’ knack for masterminding impressive results at some of Europe’s most daunting venues.
Liverpool have won two-legged ties against the likes of FC Barcelona, Juventus and FC Internazionale Milano in recent years and they gave themselves an excellent chance of pipping Madrid to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals when Benayoun decided a tight affair with a confident header eight minutes from time at the Santiago Bernabéu. Turning in Fábio Aurélio’s free-kick from the right, the Israeli midfielder left Madrid needing victory at Anfield on 10 March to have any hope of reaching the last eight for the first time since 2004.
“Liverpool have proved over the last few years that we can beat anybody,” said Benayoun. “We proved that again today against a Real Madrid team in great form. We came here, worked hard and we were lucky enough to score in the end to get a great win.” A goal to the good, Benayoun now expects his side to complete the task next month. “This result gives us a lot of confidence,” he added. “To come and score an away goal – everyone knows that’s the most important thing in the Champions League. This was the best result we could get. At Anfield, with the supporters behind us, we’ll play with more confidence, we’ll play better and I’m sure we’ll win.”
That Liverpool achieved the result largely without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres made it all the more notable. After all the speculation surrounding his fitness, captain Gerrard came on as an 88th-minute substitute, while prolific marksman Torres was withdrawn on 62 minutes, still feeling the effects of a first-half injury. “It will be easier for us when both of them play,” said Benayoun, who owed his starting berth to Gerrard’s absence. “Steven Gerrard is the most important player on this team, so when he’s not playing everyone needs to work harder and it’s difficult to fill his place. Hopefully he’ll be ready for the next game and that will make things easier.”
No one in the visitors’ camp feels the return match is a foregone conclusion, however. “We all said to each other in the dressing room that it’s still only half-time,” explained forward Dirk Kuyt. “We’ve got another really important game to play against Madrid and they’re a really good side. We knew they’d scored a lot of goals in their last few games and that we’d have to defend well, but we also wanted to score a goal and that’s what we did. We’re satisfied with the result but we still have to play another game.”