Benayoun scores early in Israel win

Yossi Benayoun scored an early goal as Israel beat Latvia 2-1 in a Euro 2012 qualifier on Saturday to move level on points with Group F leader Croatia.

The visitors took the lead through captain Benayoun’s strike in the 19th minute before Israel doubled its tally with a penalty kick from Tal Ben Haim in the 43rd.

Latvia pulled a goal back when midfielder Aleksandrs Cauna converted the second penalty kick of the game in the 62nd.

Israel held off several Latvian attempts to equalize in injury time to record its second 2-1 win over the Baltic country in Group F qualifying.

The win moved Israel into provisional second place in Group F qualifying with a total of 13 points from seven games. Croatia leads the group on goal difference. Latvia trails in fifth place with just four points from its opening six games.

Latvia’s Cauna had the game’s first shot on goal in the fourth minute, but it was Israel midfielder Bar Buzaglo who came closest to opening the scoring when his long-range shot struck the post in the sixth.

But Israel didn’t have to wait long for Chelsea midfielder Benayoun to break the deadlock with a 14-metre (14-yard) strike placed in the bottom corner beyond the reach of Latvia goalkeeper Andris Vanins.

Latvia struggled to create chances in the first half and Israel increased its lead when Ben Haim converted a penalty after Latvia midfielder Artis Lazdins fouled Yuval Shpungin.

The home team, missing the experienced Maris Verpakovskis and Andrejs Rubins, entered the second half with more confidence and was able to capitalize with a penalty kick in the 62nd minute following a handball by Almog Cohen.

Lineups:

Latvia: Andris Vanins, Oskars Klava, Ritus Krjauklis, Deniss Ivanovs, Artis Lazdins, Aleksandrs Cauna, Maksims Rafalskis (Jurijs Zigajevs, 28), Aleksejs Visnakovs (Ritvars Rugins, 71), Artjoms Rudnevs, Kaspars Gorkss, Andrejs Pereplotkins (Edgars Gauracs, 60).

Israel: Dudu Aouate, Yuval Shpungin, Tal Ben Haim I, Rami Gershon, Almog Cohen, Lior Refaelov (Tal Ben Haim II, 79), Tomer Hemed, Maor Bar Buzaglo (Bebras Natcho, 69), Dekel Keinan, Yossi Benayoun, Eran Zahavi (Eyal Golasa, 89)