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Benayoun lights up Israel

Saturday, 9 October 2004

By Ofer Ronen-Abels at the Ramat Gan stadium

[1] Yossi Benayoun scored twice for Israel, but it was not enough to earn his side victory over Switzerland in this Group 4 FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Honours even

[2] Benayoun opened the scoring with a stunning goal on nine minutes, but goals from Alexander Frei and Johan Vonlanthen nine minutes apart midway through the first half turned the match in Switzerland's favour. Benayoun struck his second of the night three minutes into the second half to earn Israel a point.

Joint top

[3] The draw ensured both sides maintained their unbeaten record after three matches, and they are now level at the top of the group with France and the Republic of Ireland, who drew 0-0.

Frei back

[4] Israel coach Avraham Grant opted for Ravid Gazal at right wing-back, while Pini Balali and Omri Afek started up front. For Switzerland, coach Jacob Kuhn made one change from the side that drew with the Republic of Ireland last month, Frei returning after suspension in place of Alexander Rey.

Benayoun dazzles

[5] Israel started strongly and were soon in front. Benayoun had scored a spectacular goal in the victory against Cyprus last month, and he bettered that here, slicing through Switzerland on a darting run from the centre circle before skipping past Pascal Zuberbühler and rolling the ball into the empty net.

Swiss reprisal

[6] But Switzerland hit back soon after. On 26 minutes the Israel defence failed to clear a free-kick, giving Ricardo Cabanas time to shoot and his low drive was flicked by Murat Yakin into the path of Frei, who beat Nir Davidovitch from close range. Eight minutes later, Switzerland went ahead, Vonlanthen heading in Ludovic Magnin's cross.

Benayoun double

[7] Israel regained the initiative shortly after the restart, again through Benayoun. This time the Real Racing Club Santander forward stretched to reach a deep cross and sent an acrobatic volley crashing past Zuberbühler for his second of the night.

Late chances

[8] Israel had Davidovitch to thank for keeping the scores level when his reflex save denied Vonlanthen from close range, and the home side almost scored when Patrick Müller sliced Afek's cross straight at Zuberbühler.

Point apiece

[9] But both sides appeared content with a point as the match wore on, and will now go into their next ties with confidence. Israel travel to Cyprus next month while Switzerland wait until March to play France in Paris.

Yossi Benayoun (second from right) celebrates