Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool FC must improve despite opening Champions League win

Rafa Benitez

RELIEVED Rafael Benitez has urged his Liverpool team to improve after opening their Champions League campaign in unconvincing fashion.

A goal from Dirk Kuyt in first-half injury time was enough to earn a narrow 1-0 win over Hungarian champions Debrecen at a nervy Anfield last night.

Kuyt’s strike was his 12th in 35 European Cup appearances for the club and earned Liverpool their 100th win in the competition.

But Benitez admits his players almost paid for failing to score a second goal during the second half.

And the Anfield manager believes Liverpool cannot afford a similar performance when they visit Fiorentina for their next Group E game in a fortnight.

“We had some chances, we didn’t take them and we put ourselves under pressure at the end,” said Benitez.

“We scored but the fact we didn’t get a second meant they always thought they had a chance.

“I don’t think the players were nervous. We were in control in the first half and they didn’t have too much threat. But hopefully we will see better things in the next game.

“The difference was because we couldn’t score the second goal, but I’m really pleased because we have won. We always have confidence. We are winning games now and that is important for the players. The confidence is getting better.”

With Lyon having beaten Fiorentina 1-0 in last night’s other Group E game, Liverpool are joint top of the early standings.

And Benitez added: “To start the Champions League group stage with three points was the most important thing. We knew we had to score an early goal but we couldn’t. These kind of games against teams that are well organised and working hard”

Benitez, who kept the same starting line-up that beat Burnley 4-0 at the weekend, dismissed any suggestion Liverpool had underestimated their opponents.

“We knew they had good players and were well organised,” said the Liverpool manager. “We knew it would be difficult. We had to see their level against a top side and they have shown they are a good team.

“You could see from the first minute that Debrecen were going to press for every ball with intensity, so they didn’t make it easy.”

Debrecen manager Andras Herczeg concedes “it would have been a miracle” had the Hungarians snatched a draw, but praised his players for their second-half display.

“We knew we’d be playing against a world-class team,” said Herczeg. “We knew they would create a lot of chances but I thought we coped quite well. I thought we played well and if we could create a few more chances we could have equalised.

“In the first half we were a little bit too nervous but in the second half we were a lot better and corrected our mistakes of the first half.

“It’s a pity we didn’t keep our concentration at the end of the first half when we conceded the goal, but I have to congratulate my players.

“It would have been a miracle if we’d got a draw here. But we’ll have the whole of Hungary behind us when we play at home, and 42,000 inside the stadium.”

Meanwhile, Tom Hicks has asked bankers Merrill Lynch to find new investment in the club, with the Liverpool co-owner believed to be ready to sell a 25% share worth around £100million.

Anfield co-owner Hicks is believed to have instructed Merrill Lynch to pursue avenues in the Middle East where there are a number of potential investors.


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