Soccer / Match-winning Header Makes Benayoun the Toast of Liverpool

This time it isn't just local hysteria: The late match-winning goal by Liverpool's Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun in its Champions League encounter with Real Madrid drew international attention and landed him the "man of the match" award on UEFA's Web site. At the same time, Liverpool's official Web site celebrated the header, calling it the most important goal in the player's career. The Sun's headline shouted "Oh Yoss," while the Daily Mirror called him a "hero."

On Thursday Benayoun told Haaretz in a phone interview that he was overwhelmed. "I'm tired, exhausted and couldn't devote time to everybody," he said. "Because it was in the first round of the Champions League play-off and against Real Madrid, it was also my most important goal, but I've had better games. I was stunned by everyone's support here in England, but the most fun was receiving calls from friends in Israel. I feel like I represent the country as well as myself. It's a huge achievement for me."

One of the many people who called him was national team coach Dror Kashtan. "Benayoun's form is no surprise to me," Kashtan said. "He's already proven himself in Europe in the very top echelons. I know well what he's worth."

'Benyaoun alone cannot beat Greece'

Indeed, Kashtan will be counting on the Liverpool midfielder for Israel's World Cup qualifiers against Greece on March 28 and April 1. The Dimona-born midfielder said he was well-aware of expectations from him, but getting results against Greece will require a team effort.

"Benayoun by himself cannot beat Greece," he said. "All of us need to be in good form and play for 90 minutes. If that happens, we'll beat Greece. If we win at home, a draw in Greece should do it."