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Reds will learn lessons of Stoke stalemate insists Benitez

SoccerNews in English Premier League 21 Sep 2008

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Rafa Benitez insisted Liverpool would learn their lesson after a frustrating 0-0 draw against Stoke at Anfield.

Having beaten European champions Manchester United just a week earlier, Liverpool found promoted Stoke an impossible nut to crack on Saturday.

The Premier League new-boys packed their defence, suffocated the home side and could even have stolen the victory in the dying stages.

But after seeing his players fail to break down the Stoke defence, Benitez admitted that Liverpool must develop more patience and quality if they are to win the league this term.

He said: “We have to learn from this game for the future and try to find a better solution.

“We dominated possession and were shooting from outside box. We had so many chances, maybe 25-30, and still could not score, but that's football and it happens sometimes.

“Maybe we just need to have more ability around the box and take more time when there are a lot of bodies in the way.

“The players worked very hard. They tried everything, but maybe we needed a little more ability in the last third to make use of all that possession and all those shots.”

Liverpool had what appeared to be a good goal ruled out after just two minutes when Steven Gerrard's free-kick was ruled out by referee Andre Marriner for offside.

Had it stood, the goal would have been Gerrard's 100th for Liverpool and Benitez admits that he has no idea why the referee disallowed the effort.

“Nobody knows why the goal was disallowed. Jamie Carragher asked the referee and he said that he disallowed it, not the linesman,” he said.

“It is unbelievable. In his position, how could the referee disallow the goal? I don't need to ask him for an explanation because it is impossible for him to explain.

“I was watching the referee when the players were celebrating. I couldn't believe it. It is more than unbelievable.”

Stoke had Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen to thank for their point and manager Tony Pulis — whose team face Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium next Saturday — admitted the draw was a huge result for his players.

Pulis said: “It's a smashing result for us to come to one of the greatest clubs in the world and leave with a point.

“We got a decision with the goal being disallowed and, if you get a decision at Anfield, you can't complain! I haven't seen it yet, but TV replays suggest there wasn't an offside in there, so I'll take that good fortune.

“I didn't give the players a day off last week because we have conceded a few soft goals lately and I wanted us to work on defending crosses in the box. Liverpool put a lot of crosses in, but we dealt with them fantastically all day.

“I don't want to single any player out because it was a real rearguard action all day, but Thomas Sorensen made some really important saves for us. Then again, he is paid to stop them going in!”

If Liverpool are to win their first league title since 1990 this season, then it will be their results against the likes of Stoke that will ultimately decide their destiny.

After Gerrard's disallowed goal, Stoke gained confidence from their good fortune and, when Mamady Sidibe dispossessed Xabi Alonso 30 yards from goal, Dave Kitson should have done much better with a free strike on goal from 20 yards that he wastefully sent high over the Liverpool crossbar.

Aside from long-range efforts from Gerrard and Alonso — both well-saved by Sorensen — Liverpool barely threatened a first-half goal.

After half-time Robbie, Keane, still waiting to score his first goal since arriving in a 20.3-million-pound switch from Spurs, was unlucky not to break the deadlock when his close range volley from Alvaro Arbeloa's cross was saved brilliantly by Sorensen.

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