Wed, Dec 03, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Benitez tells Reds fans to relish Premiership lead


Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun jumps to trap the ball in front of West Ham’s Herita Ilunga, left, during their soccer match at Anfield Stadium in Liverpool, England, on Monday.


Rafael Benitez told disgruntled Liverpool fans to enjoy their side sitting on top of the Premier League table despite the frustration of a goalless draw at home to West Ham.

The point was enough for Liverpool to leapfrog Chelsea at the summit but Liverpool’s players were left under no illusion as to what their supporters thought as they trudged off to a round of boos on Monday night.

Nine days after being held by Fulham at Anfield, Benitez’s side were forced to endure more frustration, but the Spanish manager refused to dwell on the negatives.

“Sometimes people are disappointed not to win, but sometimes you have to enjoy, especially when you are top of the table,” he said. “The crowd can be disappointed after a draw at home. But when they go home and look at the table they will see us at the top of the table. If we had scored the first goal we would have scored a lot of goals.”

Liverpool now boast four successive clean sheets, yet their failure to score for the second straight Premiership match is a cause of concern. With Fernando Torres recovering from another hamstring injury, the Liverpool manager opted to pair Robbie Keane and Dirk Kuyt.

Yet Keane remains stuck on two league goals since his expensive move from Tottenham in the summer and this was another disappointing performance by the Ireland captain.

Asked whether he thought any of his players were suffering from a lack of confidence, Benitez said: “Maybe some players are.”

But he dismissed reports that he was weighing up a move to bring Newcastle striker Michael Owen back to Anfield.

“Clearly I can guarantee that we are not going for Owen,” said Benitez, who confirmed afterward that he had yet to sign his new contract with the club.

“The team played much better than before. Some people can be disappointed, and we are disappointed not to win, but we are top of the table,” the Spaniard said. “If we keep winning then we will stay there. Against Fulham we didn’t play well. In this game we had plenty of possession and we had chances. We were much better in this game.”

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola believes Liverpool will remain serious contenders for the title despite dropping more home points.

“They will be there until the end,” said Zola, after West Ham ended a run of seven straight league defeats at Anfield.

“You have to take into account that it is not easy to play after a Champions League match. I know what it’s like because I have experienced it,” he said. “Liverpool were also missing a very important player in Torres. This is going to be a very close title race.”

Zola praised Robert Green after the keeper produced a magnificent save to deny Yossi Benayoun in the second half.

Green has been on the fringes of the England side but remains behind David James in Fabio Capello’s plans.

“He had some stick but he is now getting what he deserves,” said Zola. “He looks very, very comfortable. He knows what he has to do and he knows that he has to perform every week like this.”

Although West Ham had reason to be grateful to Green, they actually came closest to breaking the deadlock when Craig Bellamy’s long-range strike hit the post in the first half.

Zola’s men then might have snatched all three points right at the end when Luis Boa Morte fluffed a close-range chance.

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