Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Benitez to support Newcastle in their match against United

RAFAEL BENITEZ praised the reaction of his Liverpool players following their Riverside debacle – then revealed he will become a Newcastle United supporter this evening.

The Spaniard’s side responded to heavy criticism of their weekend defeat at Middlesbrough by beating Sunderland 2-0 at Anfield last night.

A first-ever Premier League goal from David Ngog in the 52nd minute was added to by a Yossi Benayoun strike 13 minutes later as Liverpool secured only the third win in their last eight league games.

And Benitez said: “The win was needed to lift the spirits. You want to win every game but after the defeat the other day it was important to get the three points and try to play a good game.

“We needed to win because we knew we were in a very good position before the Boro game. The defeat was disappointing. We had to show character and the reaction of the players was very good.

“Normally everybody was thinking about three points at Middlesbrough. We were in a very good position for most of the season and people were maybe expecting a bit more from us now. We just have to keep going and try to keep building our confidence.”

Liverpool remain in third place on goal difference behind Chelsea, with both teams now four points adrift of Manchester United having played two games more than the leaders.

The next league game for Benitez’s side is at Old Trafford on Saturday week. And with United travelling to Newcastle this evening, the Anfield manager has admitted he will be cheering on the Magpies.

“It’s important for us to win at United,” said the Spaniard. “If we don’t win there it will be very, very difficult. We have to wait and see what happens with United and afterwards try to win there.

“I will clearly be supporting Newcastle tomorrow. Any defeat for United is a good result for us.”

Of last night’s victory, Benitez added: “It was difficult in the first half and Sunderland had a very good chance. But in the second half we were passing and keeping the ball better. After we scored the first goal the game was more open and we had more options.

“Ngog had a good game, Benayoun also played well and Reina’s save was very important, but the team as a team was good. The team was trying to pass the ball against a well organised team that was good on the counter-attack. We needed to keep calm and try to find the spaces and gaps and create the chances.”

Liverpool’s goalscorer Benayoun was delighted to help Liverpool back to winning ways. The Israeli admitted they were discouraged by their unexpected weekend defeat at Middlesbrough and badly needed the win.

“I’m happy with the goal, but the most important thing is the points,” Benayoun said. “After we lost against Middlesbrough, it was important to come back to winning ways. Now we have time to think about Real Madrid (in the Champions League next week).

“We were very disappointed. We expected to beat Middlesbrough – but we did a job tonight. It is important for everyone to show the supporters – even if it is not to win the league but to finish second and do our best.”

Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia admitted the game could have been different had Kenwyne Jones not wasted a gilt-edged chance in the fourth minute when clear with only Pepe Reina to beat.

“We were pleased for the first 45 minutes and could have been ahead in the first couple of minutes with the chance for Kenwyne,” said Sbragia.

“But after we went behind it became a difficult game, and the second goal killed us off. We conceded too early after the second game.

“Kenwyne should have scored. He made it himself and another day he might have put that away and we’d have had something to hold on to. But it didn’t happen.

“Liverpool make the game big and are good at passing and a good team.

“We thought that it would be similar to the Arsenal game and it didn’t surprise us how Liverpool played. We made it difficult for them and get bodies in the way.”

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