Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pepe Reina hails Liverpool spirit

Jose Reina hailed an "incredible'' first-half spell as Liverpool routed Premier League basement club Portsmouth 4-1 at Anfield.

Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel and the impressive Alberto Aquilani all scored in the space of six minutes to give the Reds an unassailable half-time lead. Torres rounded off the win in the second period before Nadir Belhadj's late consolation.

The result will give Rafael Benitez's men encouragement going into Thursday's Europa League second leg against Lille, and Reina told ESPN: "We knew that it was a must-win game. Fortunately we did it and performed really well, hopefully we can do it again on Thursday.

"When the team is playing well we can score any time. For those 10 minutes we were incredible.''

Aquilani and the fans have been frustrated in equal measure by his inactivity since a £17 million summer move from Roma. And he said: "I have waited a lot of time (for the goal) but I am very happy today because we won the game.

"We need to win a lot of games to get in the top four and this is the first.''

Manager Rafael Benitez was also delighted his unusually attacking approach paid dividends.

He told ESPN: "We were expecting a good game, to play well and score goals. The most important thing was to play with an offensive mentality and a lot of quality.

"I think the team was doing well so the midfielders had a lot of possession, so maybe it is easier for people to see (Aquilani). I was very pleased for Ryan (Babel) as well, and Maxi (Rodriguez) did a good job.''

Opposite number Avram Grant was understandably subdued and admitted the hosts' first-half goal rush had left his side rattled.

"Like against Arsenal and Manchester United, we lost our shape,'' he said. "It was not a good seven minutes and we lost the game. I think the second half we got back into the game, we didn't play brilliant but we could do more.

"It was not easy for us even though we scored one goal and created a couple of good chances before.''

Grant refused to lay the blame on goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, whose clearance straight to Gerrard set up Torres' first goal.

"Jamie is a good goalkeeper. I will not speak about mistakes because it is part of the game,'' he added. "We started the game okay, we played how we wanted to play and then came the first goal and we lost our shape and they scored a second and third goal in seven minutes and the game was finished.''

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