* Benayoun returns
* Israel beat Georgia
By Ori Lewis
TEL AVIV, March 29 Israel welcomed back captain
Yossi Benayoun from a six-month injury layoff and beat Georgia
1-0 in a Euro 2012 Group F qualifier on Tuesday with a goal by
substitute striker Tal Ben Chaim.
Chelsea's Benayoun came on to rapturous applause from the
capacity home crowd of 14,000 at Tel Aviv's compact Bloomfield
Stadium in the 71st minute. It was his first action for club or
country since injuring an Achilles in September.
Ben Chaim scored in the 59th minute, seven minutes after
coming on to replace midfielder Bebars Natcho.
Left unmarked on the right side of the area he blasted home
a pass from Elyaniv Barda after Maor Buzaglo had run down the
Israel dominated possession but rarely troubled Georgian
goalkeeper Nukri Revishvili.
The result kept Israel very much in the hunt in a tight
Group F, which Greece lead on 11 points. Croatia and Israel, who
also beat Latvia 2-1 on Saturday, both have 10 with Georgia on
Despite Israel's slender lead, the team's French coach Luis
Fernandez said he felt confident to let Benayoun have a few
minutes' action despite not having played for Chelsea since
returning from injury.
"Yossi returned to training with Chelsea last month and he
trained well with us and I said that in the two matches he will
play a few minutes and I am happy ... this win will do a lot for
Yossi's confidence and for the rest of the team, we will need
him in our upcoming fixtures," Fernandez told reporters.
Georgia coach Temur Ketsbaia said his side had paid a heavy
price for an error.
"It wasn't a bad game, in the second half both teams played
more attacking soccer but we made one mistake and paid the price
for it ... we had a very tough game gainst Croatia and it was
too much for us today to continue to play at the same level," he
(Editing by Mitch Phillips; To query or comment on this story