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'It was always against us,' says Benitez of referee

Published 23/04/2008

Rafael Benitez hit out at the time added on by the referee Konrad Plautz which allowed Chelsea to score their late, late equalising goal – in the 95th minute – in last night's Champions League semi-final first leg at Anfield. He also accused the officials of being biased.

"It's difficult to understand," Benitez said. "There were 94 or 95 minutes and I was surprised it wasn't a free-kick or corner. It was always against us. All the corners, free-kicks and corners. But, in the end, it was an own goal."

Asked whether he was disappointed with the referee's display, he said: " Yes, it's not the first time. Really disappointed. We knew before the game. We knew it was going to be difficult. You can't blame the referee for the own goal at the end, but the time? One minute in the first half and four in the second. It's difficult to explain."

Benitez exonerated John Arne Riise from blame and claimed that Liverpool should have put the contest beyond Chelsea before their late goal.

"In these kind of games, it's not easy to create too many chances," he said. "We had three clear chances. We needed to take them. Look at the chances we had and the chances they had. There was a massive difference in the numbers and how clear things were. Thinking about Stamford Bridge we have enough confidence. We need to change our minds and start thinking positively now." When reminded that, under him, Liverpool have failed to score away to Chelsea, he added: "We will change the statistics."

The Chelsea manager, Avram Grant, claimed that his team had "deserved" to come away from Anfield with a draw. He also claimed that they should have had a penalty for a challenge by Jamie Carragher on Didier Drogba.

"First, it was a game in which the two goals came from mistakes – a big one from us on the first goal. Up to then, we'd controlled the game," Grant said. "To score in the last moment ourselves made us very happy, but there's one more game to come. It was a great result, though."

The club's owner, Roman Abramovich, was not present and Grant said it made no difference to the billionaire that the final is in Moscow. "Roman would be happy even if the final was in Mongolia," he said. "We took a big step today and we can use this. From day one since I've been here I've said that, for Chelsea to be [considered] a big club, we need to be in the final of the Champions League."

Belfast Telegraph

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