Yossi Benayoun celebrating his winning goal at Madrid.
(Photo: PA Photo)
Liverpool are officially
the top ranked club in Europe
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Wednesday night's famous victory in the
Bernabeu has sent the Reds to the top of UEFA's ranking
system for the first time since 1985.
Based on performances in European competition over the past
five years, the complicated system awards points for matches
won and quality of opposition.
The victory in the Bernabeu has seen the Reds overtake
Chelsea at the top of the table, with Barcelona third and AC
Liverpool's five year record under Rafa Benitez – who
arrived at the club in the summer of 2004 – has been
In his five years the Spanish coach has won the Champions
League, taken his team to another final, reached last
season's semi-final and got to the last 16 in 2006.
It's a record of unparalleled consistency in recent times.
Even when the Reds won the Champions League in 2005, their
ranking for the season put them second behind AC Milan,
while their five year record left them in fifth behind
Barcelona, AC Milan, Valencia and Real Madrid.
This is the first time the Reds have topped the co-efficient
rankings since 1985 when the European ban was imposed,
effectively asking them to start their ranking points tally
Liverpool also have the highest ranking for this present
season with (18.1775 points) closely followed by Bayern
Munich, who handed out a 5-0 demolition at Sporting Lisbon
on Wednesday night.
UEFA's latest rankings: 1 Liverpool FC (114.077), 2 Chelsea
FC (110.077), 3 Barcelona (109.403), 4 AC Milan (109.306), 5
Arsenal (101.077), 6 Sevilla (100.403), 7 Man Utd (99.077),
8 Bayern Munich (93.664), 9 Lyon (90.576), 10 Inter Milan
urge Rafa stay
By Chris Stanton - Setanta Sports
Liverpool's players have urged the club to
end the uncertainty over Rafa Benitez, with Albert Riera and
Javier Mascherano both revealing that it was the presence of
the Spaniard that persuaded them to join the Anfield club.
Several bookmakers suspended betting on Benitez leaving
Liverpool on Wednesday amid suggestions that talks over a
new contract for the former Valencia boss had once more hit
Benitez's stock rocketed once more though just a few hours
later when he masterminded a 1-0 win for The Reds at Real
Riera admits the players are aware of the upheaval behind
"We are aware of the dispute over his contract. But it is
not something we were talking about in the dressing room,
the match took up all our thoughts.
"Of course we want Rafa to stay. I wanted to play for
Liverpool and he was a very important person in achieving
that for me.
"Not only for me but for the other players too, we all want
Rafa to be with us. If you asked everyone, 100 percent they
would say they want Rafa to stay with us."
Mascherano added: "The manager brought me to Anfield, he has
done a very good job here.
"We can get to the quarter finals again and he has shown
that against the top sides like in Barcelona, at Inter Milan
last season and now at Real Madrid he is a very good coach
"We are always a team who works very hard and every
Liverpool supporter has to be very happy with this. Every
player gives everything for the club.
"He is important for me. When I came to Liverpool I did not
have any confidence after being at West Ham.
"The manager gave me that confidence. The only thing I can
say to Rafa is thank you, he helped me during a bad moment
in my career and now I try to do everything for my team and
"I cannot say what is going to happen, but with him
Liverpool is doing a great job. If we want to keep going in
the Champions League and Premier League it is important to
have him with us."
Benayoun: G-force will
carry Reds through
Goal hero Yossi Benayoun believes Steven
Gerrard's return will ensure Liverpool reach their fourth
Champions League quarter-finals in five years under Rafael
Benayoun headed the late winner against Real Madrid to stun
a vast Bernabeu crowd in Wednesday's first leg of their
If Liverpool do march on to the last eight, it will be the
14th time they have reached the stage of the competition
formerly known as the European Cup.
Benayoun's fourth European goal for the club - he converted
Fabio Aurelio's free-kick in the 82nd minute - ended a night
in which Liverpool's disciplined performance made them
Now Benayoun awaits with relish the return of captain
Gerrard to the fray for the second leg on March 10.
The England midfielder was risked for only the final minutes
in Madrid because of his recent hamstring problem.
Benayoun said: "I was delighted to have scored, but the most
important thing for us was the win. It was the perfect
result, a clean sheet and an away goal.
"It was hard against Real, they have great players and it is
a difficult place to win. But we achieved our objectives.
"Now we have great confidence for the second leg at Anfield,
we will have the fans behind us and Steven Gerrard will be
fit by then. We all believe now that we can reach the
"It is easier when Steven is playing, so we had to work
extra hard to cover for his absence, which is not an easy
thing to do.
"He is the most important player in our squad. But we did do
the job well.
"We were facing a Madrid side who had been in outstanding
form, this has been a key time for them in their season.
"So that makes the victory even better. We believe we can
finish the job, and we will have Steven back for the second
By Mike Perez - PA Sport, Madrid
Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben is
confident his Champions League dreams will not fall foul of
Liverpool yet again despite their home defeat to Rafael
Madrid have been left with a mountain to climb if they are
to avoid being dumped out at the last-16 stage of the
competition for the fifth successive season after going down
1-0 to Liverpool in front of their own fans.
Yossi Benayoun scored the only goal of a closely fought
first leg in which there were precious few goalscoring
opportunities for either side as defences largely kept their
opponents at bay.
Robben, who had arguably Madrid's best effort in the second
half when his thunderous 25-yard strike was palmed over by
Jose Reina, has not given up hope of his side progressing,
and in the process avoiding another European exit at the
hands of the Reds for the Dutchman.
Robben was part of the Chelsea side that was eliminated by
Liverpool at the semi-final stage in both 2005 and 2007, but
he has faith it will be third time lucky on this occasion.
"We have to go to Anfield and give it everything. We don't
have anything to lose and we are going to go there confident
of getting through the tie," he said.
"I'm sure we can be in the quarter-finals."
Robben knows from bitter experience how hard it is to get a
positive result at Anfield.
In 2005 Chelsea lost 1-0 there after being held goalless at
home, while in 2007 the London outfit were again defeated
1-0 having led by the same scoreline from the first leg, and
were subsequently knocked out 4-1 on penalties - Robben
missing his side's first spot-kick.
"The situation now is difficult, because we wanted to win
this game," he added on his club's website.
"They are an English team, which means they are very strong,
especially at a tactical level. They closed up the space
very well and scored a goal. It will be difficult, but in
the return match we are going to try and turn the tie
"To get a good result at Anfield we have to move the ball
very quickly and try to create as many chances as possible.
"They have done very well. They have not left any spaces
because they wanted to keep a clean sheet.
"They are tactically very strong, and although I do not
really like the way they play it is always effective.
"They are a stronger team at home and it will be difficult
to beat them, although we can do something big there."
By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
Rafa Benitez has revealed Steven Gerrard
so nearly started Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Real Madrid
Gerrard eventually started on the bench at El Santiago
Bernabeu, playing only a handful of minutes as Benitez
adopted a cautious approach to the recovery of his skipper’s
However, the Liverpool boss admits he had still planned to
start the Liverpool number eight as close as an hour before
kick-off, eventually settling for having his skipper on the
Benitez explained to the club’s official website: "Clearly
Stevie needed to do a special warm-up in the dressing room
with the physios.
"Afterwards he was doing the normal warm-up with the other
players. He needed to do something special beforehand but
still he was not fully fit.
"We knew it could be a problem so, after talking with the
doctor and the player, it was decided he could play maybe a
few minutes at the end."
Liverpool now hope Gerrard can start the weekend’s trip to
Middlesbrough, where Fernando Torres is almost certain to
miss out with an ankle problem.
Real reason to back Benitez
Comment by Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
Without a shadow of a doubt…Rafa Benitez
has become taken for granted.
Taken for granted by the media (to a ridiculous extent) and,
judging by reaction to yesterday’s departure rumours, taken
for granted by some of his own fans.
Last night Liverpool went to the home of the biggest club in
world football, the home of the nine-time European
Champions, the home of ‘resurgent Real Madrid’, without
Steven Gerrard, and they made them look very ordinary.
I would like to stress the ‘made them look ordinary’ part of
that last sentence. For if you listened to an extremely
familiar voice during Wednesday’s match, you would think
Madrid had beaten themselves.
This was a Madrid side who has scored 10 goals in the last
two games, a Madrid side that boasted 13 goals-in-23 games
Raul alongside 14 goals-in-21 games Higuain, supported by
one of the world’s top three widemen Arjen Robben.
But while Real’s terrific trio barely made any impression
throughout 90 minutes, all we heard was how ‘disappointing’
Madrid were, how ‘average’ they looked.
Funnily enough, the same was said of Inter after Liverpool
silenced The San Siro in equally comfortable manner last
Has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe it is Benitez and
Liverpool who are making these teams look average? I suggest
you watch Wednesday’s victory again, and imagine you’re a
Madrid player. Look how few options each man has every time
he receives the ball, look how little time each man has as
Mascherano and co snap away.
The case in point is Arjen Robben. Once or twice he
inevitably broke free – he is a class player after all, but
in the main he was forced inside by the excellent Fabio
Aurelio, where Mascherano and Riera were always ready to nip
the ball off his toes. It was military stuff, led by
Five years ago, in the season before Benitez took charge at
Anfield, Liverpool were slumping out of the Uefa Cup fourth
round to Marseille with Igor Biscan committing his usual
clown impressions in defence.
Now, under Benitez, The Reds dismiss the cream of Europe’s
crop every season with so much ease that they barely get the
credit they deserve.
Joe Cole even went as far as to label Liverpool the one team
that NOBODY in Europe wants to play, yet it seems every
European win nowadays is only used as extra ammo to attack
Benitez’s inability to catch Manchester United.
Compare the reaction to Liverpool’s away win against Bayer
Leverkusen back in 2005 with Wednesday’s win in Madrid.
Glory European nights are being taken for granted.
You even hear fans saying “we’re not interested in the
Champions League, we want the Premier League”. Yes the
league is priority, but who on earth do these fans think
they are to be so blasé about club football’s greatest
Benitez is taking Liverpool closer and closer to the title
but, until he reaches the Holy Grail, why not sit back and
enjoy the sheer volume of glory European nights that no club
can rival in the past four seasons? The Reds are extremely
fortunate to have him.
Newcastle should be an example to everyone here. A portion
of their ‘supporters’ hounded Sir Bobby Robson out of the
club after a slow start to a season – despite the fact he
was constantly delivering top four or five finishes for the
club. Now they can only dream of playing Madrid, let alone
beating them so comfortably.
Liverpool were heading for similar anonymity before the
arrival of Benitez. His departure could very well lead to a
return to those dark days.
over Anfield contract
The Irish Times
Rafael Benitez is confident of making
progress in discussions over his Liverpool contract after
last night's 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg victory
over Real Madrid.
Yossi Benayoun's late header at the Bernabeu put the Reds in
pole position to progress to the last eight and Benitez was
swift to dismiss speculation he had been ready to quit
The Spaniard said: "My lawyers and advisors have been
talking to the club's owners over the past few days about
the contract and I believe that problems we have can be
"I was very surprised to hear rumours that I was going to
"I can assure you that I have not been considering such a
move, and it was a shock to hear such suggestions.
"It needs to be clear that I was not thinking of resigning.
My aim is to keep working and winning and to tell the owners
that on the pitch."
Benitez has been locked in talks with owners George Gillett
and Tom Hicks over a new four-year deal for several weeks.
And he strenuously refuted claims he was considering his
position, reiterating he is happy at the club.
"I expect talks to continue between my lawyers, my advisors,
myself and the owners," added Benitez.
"I am really pleased with my position at the club, I have
not been thinking about resigning.
"My aim is to win every game that is possible for this club,
and my advisors will continue to talk. We will see what
"We are still talking, so we will see what happens in the
"I was not thinking about resigning, obviously I cannot
control other things that I could be fired, but I was just
concentrating on the game.
"The club has made it clear this rumour was not true. That
is important for everyone. Stability is the key if you want
to be successful.
"And the players were able to do their talking on the pitch,
Benitez baffled by quit rumours
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has
insisted he was unaware of rumours he was about to leave
The Spaniard was speaking after watching Liverpool beat Real
Madrid 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League
last-16 clash, with Yossi Benayoun scoring the only goal.
Referring to the speculation about his future, Benitez told
Sky Sports: "I didn't know, I was talking with my friends
here in Spain and concentrating on the game."
Asked if there was any truth in the rumours, he said: "No,
clearly I was thinking about the game.
"There are important games coming up and I want to
concentrate just on the games, and I'll keep in touch with
Benitez has so far refused to sign a new contract and is
demanding total control over transfers.
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher also dismissed the
speculation about the Spaniard.
Carragher told Sky Sports: "I got a text message about it
but Liverpool have created a lot of rumours over the years
and that's another one. It was a rumour and there's nothing
Earlier on Wednesday, Liverpool sources felt moved to
respond to claims that bookmakers have suspended betting on
A source close to the club said: "Rafa is not going to be
sacked, such suggestions are ridiculous.
"We are aware of the rumours and speculation that has been
buzzing around in Madrid but it is just not true."
Support for this view, enflamed by on-going contract
negotiations, has come from one of Benitez's closest
Leading Spanish journalist Guillem Balague is a personal
friend of Benitez and has dismissed claims the Liverpool
boss is about to be axed.
On his website, Balague wrote: "There are reports that
betting has been suspended on this particular market and the
rumour that Benitez will be gone has spread like wildfire
around the Liverpool supporters out here in Madrid and on
"If I am honest, I am not entirely comfortable indulging in
these stories at the moment as there is so much
misinformation being spread around that it is impossible to
respond accurately to every single report or rumour.
"However, because of the number of people who are getting in
touch with us, I feel I should respond.
"I can say with absolute certainty, categorically, that Rafa
Benitez will not be sacked as manager of Liverpool this
evening and that these rumours are not true.
"At the moment, the situation is delicate, and there have
been developments with regard to the ongoing contractual
negotiations at Anfield, and this is something that we will
Carra: Yossi goal is massive
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Jamie Carragher labelled Yossi Benayoun's
late header 'massive' after Liverpool left the Bernabeu with
a 1-0 advantage.
The Israel captain nodded home a Fabio Aurelio free-kick on
82 minutes to give the Reds a priceless away goal.
The sides will reconvene at Anfield in two weeks, when
Juande Ramos will have no option but to send his men out to
Captain for the night Carragher said: "Away goals are
massive in Europe and that means they've got to get one now
in the second leg. Hopefully if they come at us it'll give
us more space and make it easier.
"We have done well in this competition by being organised.
We are one of the best organised teams in this competition.
That's why we've done well in the last few years and we've
done it again tonight.
"That's just what we came for - a clean sheet and an away
goal. But it's only half time, you know. They know what
they've got to do and that's come to Anfield and score, so
it's still game on."
the giant for Reds
By Alex Livie - Setanta Sports
Liverpool put one foot in the quarter
finals of the Champions League with a 1-0 win at Real Madrid
The Reds nullified the threat of the Spanish giants and
secured a vital away goal when Yossi Benayoun popped up to
head home with nine minutes remaining.
It was a polished defensive display against a Real side
lacking any bite and they secured the added bonus of an away
goal to take back to Anfield in a fortnight’s time.
Real will have to find some attacking sparkle in the second
leg if they are to stand any chance of progressing, but
their January signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar is ineligible.
The Spaniards’ only real threat came through Arjen Robben
who has a penchant for cutting in from the right onto his
left foot and he is pretty good at it. He proved the point
five minutes in when driving inside and releasing Raul who
had got away from Martin Skrtel but his shot had no punch
and was easily saved by Jose Reina.
Real dominated possession and territory in the opening
quarter hour and Liverpool nearly shot themselves in the
foot as Albert Riera gifted possession to Higuain, but he
lacked conviction and Javier Mascherano got back to make a
It took Liverpool 20 minutes to fashion a chance and what a
chance it was. Real made a complete mess of playing the
offside trap and this allowed Fernando Torres to sprint
clear and unleash a powerful drive, but Spain international
star Iker Casillas was equal to the effort with a fine
The offside trap looked an alien concept to Real who got it
hopelessly wrong again to allow Benayoun a sight of goal,
but Casillas raced off his line to make a smothering save.
Despite looking far from secure at the back, Real dominated
the ball and Higuain had the ball in the net on the
half-hour – but his close-range header from a corner was
rightly chalked off for offside.
For all Real’s possession, they were restricted to efforts
from distance although The Reds survived a scare five
minutes from half time when a cross from Robben took a
wicked deflection and Reina did well to adjust and make the
Xabi Alonso has scored some memorable goals in his time with
Liverpool and he nearly bagged a stunner on the stroke of
half-time. The schemer picked the ball up in his own half
and spotted Casillas off his line and fired a long-range
chip. It was perfectly executed, as it would have dropped
just under the bar, but the keeper got back with a
full-length dive to tip the ball over.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first,
with Liverpool seemingly content to allow Real plenty of
possession and being extremely comfortable in dealing with
Robben was Real’s most potent attacking threat and he was
denied by a fine save from Reina with 20 minutes remaining.
The Dutchman picked the ball up after his fellow countryman
Dirk Kuyt had failed to win a free kick, drove forward at
pace and, for once, direct to goal. He flashed a swerving
effort which looked destined for the back of the net, but
Reina did superbly to tip the effort over the bar.
Liverpool seemed content to take a 0-0 draw back to Anfield,
but they were given a helping hand in securing an away goal
nine minutes from time.
Gabriel Heinze committed a needless foul wide on the
Liverpool’s right, Aurelio delivered the ball into the box
and Benayoun climbed unopposed to head home from six yards.
Liverpool saw out time to secure the win, with the only sour
note being Torres' departure on the hour with an apparent