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By ESPN Staff

Kuyt flying? Rafa hints at striker move

Rafael Benitez praised match-winner Mark Gonzalez after the Champions League qualifying victory over Maccabi Haifa - then revealed he is close to signing a new striker.

Chilean winger Gonzalez scored the winner within moments of coming on for his debut in the 2-1 third qualifying round first-leg win at Anfield

Liverpool had been forced to battle back from a goal down after Gustavo Boccoli struck with Craig Bellamy - also on his debut - equalising soon after.

But the glaring need for more forward options was obvious and speculation continues that Liverpool are closer to signing £10million-rated Holland international Dirk Kuyt.

Yet even though Benitez now has an extra £2million from selling Djimi Traore to Charlton, he remained cagey.

He said: 'We have two or three names, Kuyt is one. We are still working hard but maybe a little closer.'

Gonzalez's goal saved Liverpool from a potentially tricky second leg at a neutral venue.

It seems the choice is now between Cyprus or Kiev but Liverpool's group stage hopes are still on knife edge wherever the game is played.

Benitez said: 'We knew Mark was capable of goals, he has shown that in La Liga. It was not a gamble to take off Steven Gerrard, we have players from the World Cup who are 15 days behind the rest in their training.

'We wanted some extra pace, and that is why I brought on Gonzalez. I am delighted for him to score on his debut, as I am for Bellamy.'

Haifa coach Roni Levy said: 'I am disappointed with this result, especially after taking the lead.

'To concede two goals like that has made it hard. We would have a better chance if the second leg was in Tel Aviv, but at least only a 2-1 deficit means that we can still dream of what might be in the future.

'For us, a small club, to take the lead at a big club like this was exceptional. We felt that we worked hard and deserved more, a draw would really have given our dreams a boost.'