Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Title still within our grasp: Benitez

AFP , LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND

Liverpool forward Fernando Torres of Spain, right, blocks a shot from Everton midfielder Phil Neville of England during their match in Liverpool, England, on Monday.

PHOTO: AFP

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insisted that his side could still win the Premier League despite watching his side carelessly drop more points in a 1-1 draw with city rivals Everton on Monday.

Benitez’s side looked to be heading two points clear the summit after skipper Steven Gerrard gave his side the lead against neighbors Everton at Anfield on Monday.

But Liverpool were forced to settle for a draw after Australian international Tim Cahill pounced in the dying moments to earn Everton a priceless point.

Benitez’s side are level on points with leaders Manchester United but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have a game in hand and a better goal difference. In addition, Liverpool have now failed to win four of their last five home games ahead of third-placed Chelsea’s visit to Anfield on Feb. 1.

Yet Benitez opted to reflect on the positives than dwell on the negatives after Liverpool’s hopes of securing the title for the first time since 1990 suffered another damaging setback.

“It could be better but we have to be positive,” he said afterward. “When you lose two points you have to be disappointed. But let’s not forget that we are level on points with Manchester United and we are still in the Champions League. I still believe we can win the title. We have players coming back from injury.”

The build-up to the game had been dominated by news that Benitez had rejected the offer of a contract extension casting doubt over his future at Anfield. Benitez wants more power when it comes to signing players, but the Spaniard denied that his decision to turn down the deal contributed to his side’s disappointing result. He also defended his decision to cut short Fernando Torres’s first start since Nov. 26 soon after Liverpool had taken the lead.

“I think that Torres was really tired,” said Benitez, who also replaced Robbie Keane. “It was not an easy game but we were much better in the second half. We were winning with two minutes remaining. That’s why it could have been better but we have to be positive.”

Everton, who remain sixth in the table, are now unbeaten in seven games after ending a three-match losing run against their rivals.

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