Baffled Benitez puts
Super Cup before signings
The Daily Mail
Rafael Benitez does not expect to conclude any
transfer business until after Friday's European Super
Cup in Monaco.
But although Bolton have denied that Liverpool have put
in a formal bid for their Greek midfielder Stelios
Giannakopoulos, it is believed the Anfield club have
made an initial approach for the player that could cost
them only £1million.
The Euro 2004 winner has a buy-out clause in his
contract that will allow him to consider any bid of
£1million or more, and he could become the first of
maybe four signings Benitez plans before the transfer
window closes next Wednesday.
After witnessing his misfiring strikers struggle against
CSKA Sofia, losing 1-0 in the third qualifying round
second leg but reaching the group stages 3-2 on
aggregate, Benitez said: "We have identified the players
that we want, but I do not expect to complete any
transfer until after we have returned from Monaco and
Friday's final with CSKA Moscow."
Benitez continued to defend his front men, Djibril Cisse
and Fernando Morientes, who squandered a host of chances
against the Bulgarians.
The belief on the Kop that Michael Owen's possible
return from Real Madrid would solve such problems is
still producing non-committal reactions from Benitez. He
said: "I want other players first, I am happy with my
five strikers even now Milan Baros has gone."
While French youngster Florent Sinama-Pongolle was
denying rumours that he is a target of Lyon after making
his comeback following a knee injury in January, Benitez
said of his front men: "If we did not create
opportunities I would be worried, and if we have as many
chances on Friday we will win the Super Cup."
But Benitez desperately searched for the positives from
a night of high tension when his European champions
almost blew their chance of reaching the Champions
League group stages.
Benitez is just relived to be in with the big boys
again, and pointed to last season's shock home defeat by
Graz - also 1-0 - at the same third qualifying round
stage as an omen.
The Liverpool boss said: "Last season we lost like this
but went on to win the trophy, maybe we can do it again,
He added: "I want to look at the positives. I felt we
created enough chances to have won the game, all we
lacked was luck.
"They scored early on and it made it difficult, but it
was hard for my team to play at 100 per cent knowing
they have a big game on Friday and were already 3-1 up
from the first leg.
"It is difficult to explain how we could have had so
many chances and not scored, but I felt the strikers
tried very hard and on another night could have had two
"At the end we had the quality and to qualify was really
the only thing that mattered. If players try their best
there is not much you can say to them.
"I felt that although CSKA created the illusion of being
in with a chance, they did not really create enough
chances and we were comfortable in the end."
CSKA boss Miodrag Jesic praised his players and
suggested one more goal would have caused a real drama
Valentin Iliev grabbed CSKA's winner, but Jesic said:
"Maybe we would have given Liverpool a feeling of fear
if we could have scored just one more. But all I can say
is to praise my team for their efforts, they were
outstanding, especially after the way we had lost the
"We came to Anfield to play attacking football and we
achieved that. Right from the first minute we attacked
and gave them problems, and once we had scored we felt
that just one more would really have made all the
difference to the game.
"If we had scored one more it would have been a night of
real drama, but it would not come and they had quality
at the end to see the game through.
"This sort of result, though, gives me confidence that
soon we will be good enough to qualify for the group
Rafa rues missed chances
By Rob Lancaster - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez felt his side created
enough chances to at least get a draw at home to CSKA
The Reds saw their 13-match unbeaten run in Europe come
to an end as the visiting Bulgarians secured a surprise
1-0 win at Anfield.
Valentin Iliev's well-taken strike in the first-half
proved enough for the visitors, although Liverpool still
progressed through to the group stages courtesy of a 3-1
win in Sofia.
Benitez felt the defeat was down to some wasteful
finishing as the hosts were unable to make the most of
the opportunities they created.
"You know if they score it is not easy, but, at the end,
if you analyse the game, we created a lot of
opportunities and we don't score," stated Benitez to
"If we don't score it is difficult but we created so
many chances we should have won or drawn at least.
"In the second half I thought about making changes but
we were in control of the game and creating
Despite the lack of goals for his side, the Spaniard was
quick to rule out a move for Michael Owen before the
transfer deadline as he once again stated his priorities
were a centre-back and a right winger.
"We need to score goals with the strikers we have at the
moment. We have good strikers," he said.
progress despite defeat
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool lost in Europe for the first time in 15
matches but still beat CSKA Sofia 3-2 on aggregate to
reach the group stage of the Champions League.
With Liverpool 3-1 up from the first leg, they were
expected to easily sweep aside the Bulgarians at
But Valentin Iliev's sweetly-struck shot put Sofia ahead
early on and Yordon Todoro almost reduced the deficit
further shortly after.
John Arne Riise went closest for the Reds, who made hard
work of the tie.
Liverpool were probably not helped by the lack of
continuity in the team.
Steven Gerrard was out injured, while Jose Reina, Xabi
Alonso, Jamie Carragher and Bolo Zenden, were all
In came Scott Carson, Josemi, Dietmar Hamann, Riise and
Following the departure of Milan Baros to Aston Villa on
Tuesday, Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes were
partnered up front.
It gave the pair the chance to show Liverpool would not
need to make the much-rumoured return of Michael Owen a
And they did well, initially, with Cisse unlucky not to
lift his shot over Sofia keeper Dejan Maksic when
through on goal and, later, Morientes firing off target
after linking up well with his strike partner.
But after looking confident for the opening 10 minutes,
the European champions then started to look anything
Sofia began to stroke the ball around crisply and their
one-touch passing left Mohammed Sissoko, in particular,
Far too often the long-legged midfielder was too quick
to go to ground, finding himself bypassed.
And it was a Sissoko lunge which led to Sofia's
breakthrough, when he conceded a free-kick on the
right-hand edge of the penalty area.
With the set-piece taken quickly, and short, Liverpool
stood and watched as centre-back Iliev struck a superb,
curling shot into the left corner.
Shortly after, the visitors' fluid passing nearly
created a second goal but the influential Yordon Todorov
shot over after Carson's clearance had fell to him.
Liverpool emerged more determined after the break and
Riise - by some way his side's best player - went close