Rafael Benitez was pleased with Liverpool’s hard-fought victory over Bolton at Anfield today. With Everton not playing until tomorrow, against relegation candidates West Brom, Rafa saw his team close the gap to the coveted Champions League place to one point, for 24 hours at least.
Benitez had talked before the game about how his eyes had been opened to English football in the reverse fixture last August. He’d said he learned back then how much tougher the game was in the Premiership, so he wasn’t surprised at the battle that was needed today: "We knew this would be a tough and hard game and I always felt one goal would be enough to win it."
In the end the goal was scored by the unlikely hero, Igor Biscan, with only his second Premiership goal for the reds. Rafa pointed out that Biscan works hard, is strong in the tackle, and that maybe his lack of goals is due to him being more of a defensive midfielder. He went on: "I was happy for Igor Biscan to score and he is working very hard. He did a very good job in defence and attacked well also." Asked about Biscan’s future – his contract expires at the end of the season – Benitez replied cryptically that he’s spoken to Biscan about the future and told him where he stands. The implication was that Biscan’s been made an offer, but maybe not as good as he’d hoped for.
Benitez also talked about how there was a need to be positive – a few weeks ago the gap was unbridgeable, now it’s one point: "We needed to win this game and now we have reduced the gap. We need to see now what happens when Everton play tomorrow but we will keep fighting right to the end."
Prior to the game Benitez had said Morientes was fit to start. In the end it proved untrue, as Fernando just wasn’t quite fit enough. He was on the bench and joined the attack near the end: "The reason I didn’t start with Morientes was he was not completely fit. I wanted to use him for the last 15 minutes which is what we did."
Benitez had also kept secret as long as possible that Jerzy Dudek had returned from international duty carrying an injury. "Jerzy Dudek couldn’t play because he felt a groin problem which happened while he was away on international duty and he couldn’t kick properly so I didn’t want to risk him today," said the Reds boss. Benitez recognises that there are important games ahead, starting on Tuesday in the Champions League: "I think he will be okay for the Juventus game."
Meanwhile Sam Allardyce wasn’t happy that his team travel home empty-handed. He said: "I am absolutely gutted. We should have had this game over and done with in the first 10 to 15 minutes. We created more chances than they did but you get punished if you miss chances." From his point of view Bolton were the better team by a long chalk: "I would have been disappointed with a draw and the players in my dressing room can’t believe they have lost. I can’t remember the last time we came to Anfield and dominated Liverpool which shows you what a good side we are."