Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Rafa: Points more important to Liverpool than performance

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez admitted the 2-1 victory over Wigan mattered more than the performance on an emotional night at Anfield

With the club celebrating the 50th anniversary of legendary boss Bill Shankly's first game in charge, a host of former stars were paraded at half-time.

But having stumbled through the last two months Benitez said three points was the only thing his side had to worry about.

Young French striker David Ngog's 10th-minute glancing header from Fabio Aurelio's cross and Fernando Torres' second-half scrambled effort proved enough to see off the Latics, for whom Charles N'Zogbia scored an injury-time consolation.

The victory lifts Liverpool back up to sixth, although they are still five points adrift of the Champions League places.

It was only their fourth win in 16 matches and just their second at Anfield since September 26 but it will do much for the team's shaky confidence.

"It was very important to win, to get three points, with a lot of positives," said Benitez.

"It does not matter if we couldn't score more goals and be more relaxed in the second half but, at the end of the day, three points is key.

"We needed to get these three points and be ready for the next game. We are thinking about one game at a time so now Portsmouth (on Saturday) is the target."

Benitez explained he held back Torres for his 100th appearance until the second half as the striker is still feeling the effects of having missed six matches since the start of November.

"I wanted to keep him back because he was really tired after the last game (Sunday's defeat to Arsenal).

"I told him I wanted to protect him and it would be good for me to play him at the end and he was good too.

"I think he will be ready for Portsmouth."

Torres goal helped settle Liverpool's nerves and Benitez admitted confidence was still fragile.

"We had some chances - Yossi Benayoun had one, Ngog had one - and if you score the second goal everything changes," added the manager.

"The main thing for us now is talking about [winning] games in a row, starting at Portsmouth."

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez's side have now won only won two of their last 10 matches and are just two points clear of the relegation zone, having conceded the most goals in the Premier League with 17 in their last four away games.

The Latics boss felt that had substitute Jason Scotland, who has yet to score in the Premier League since his summer transfer, not blasted a close-range volley against the crossbar five minutes before Torres scored the result could have been different.

"I have mixed feelings. The first goal is really soft for our standards, it was a lapse in concentration," he said.

"When you come to places like Anfield if you do that you are going to make things very difficult for yourself.

"After that I was pleased with the reaction and slowly we created a few chances.

"The key moment is when Jason Scotland hit the crossbar. If that had gone in it would have been a completely different game as you could see the anxiety around the ground.

"We gave them a little bit too much respect and space in spells and the concentration was not what it should be.

"Liverpool got their chances and took them; we got ours and didn't."

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