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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Benitez stands by team selection

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez
Benitez's praised his squad for their efforts at Fratton Park

Rafael Benitez defended his decision to rest key players despite his Liverpool side having to wait until the final minute to secure victory at Portsmouth.

The Reds boss started without key strikers Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres, with the pair coming on late to both score and help the side to a 3-2 win.

"Torres is part of the squad, but without the other players we would not be where we are," said Benitez.

"We saw the quality in the squad. We could have lost but deserved to win."

The Spaniard rested some his main stars after Liverpool went out of the FA Cup at Everton in midweek in a game which went to extra-time and one in which they had a player sent-off.

The selection issues for the Pompey game brought into doubt Benitez's decision to sell Robbie Keane to Tottenham in the recent transfer window.

The Reds were left with only two experienced strikers in the squad, Kuyt and Torres, while midfielder Steven Gerrard's absence with a hamstring injury also brought the decision into question.

But Benitez had insisted after kean'e exit that forwards like David Ngog, 19, and Dutchman Ryan Babel, offered him sufficient depth in his squad.

His theory was tested as he opted to give Ngog his first league start at Fratton Park with Babel also starting in a forward position.

But both struggled to make an impact and Babel was guilty of a horrendous miss just before David Nugent gave Portsmouth the lead.

The impressive Fabio Aurelio hauled Liverpool level with a powerful free-kick moments later, before Hermann Hreidarsson restored Portsmouth's advantage.

But goals in the final five minutes from substitutes Kuyt and then Torres completed an epic fightback to keep up the pressure on title rivals Manchester United.

The Spaniard added: "We saw a lot of resolve. We saw different players working hard on the pitch, trying to keep the ball, Fernando and Xabi Alonso did that well.

Benitez praises resilience of squad

"They all worked hard for the team and the fans.

"Every win is an important victory, especially now that we are close to the top. I'm really pleased that the lads showed they had character and played well. We need to keep working and keep our confidence high now."

Portsmouth manager Tony Adams remained upbeat and confident of keeping his position at Fratton Park despite the defeat which leaves his side without a win in the league since 30 November and one point above the relegation places.

When asked if he still was well supported at the club, the former England defender said: "One hundred percent yes. I have spoken to the chairman and so far so good."

Adams still has faith despite defeat

He added: "We just need to start picking up points. We have to fight all teams playing around us and we'll fight all the way.

"Performances don't lie and the crowd were fully supportive of the players, their work rate and performance. They have given it all for me but unfortunately they are making mistakes.

"They are great players here but it's been the same thing all season, right back to first game. I have faith in them still."

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