Rafa ‘realistic’ over top-four tilt

Benitez’s side fell six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City

– having played a game more – as they were held to a frustrating

goalless draw by the Cottagers at Anfield. With just four games

remaining, Benitez accepts he is now unlikely to deliver on his

“guarantee” of securing a Champions League qualifying position. The

Spaniard said: “It is not in our hands, it depends on the other

teams and the difference is too much now, maybe. “We have to keep

going because it is always important to do your best and try to

finish as high as possible. “We will try to win the rest of the

games and try to win the Europa League.” Benitez was asked whether

he regretted his assertion he could guarantee fourth place but

avoided the question. He said: “It will now be very difficult, we

have to be realistic. “As a manager you have to believe and support

your team. We have to keep going.” Liverpool will now turn their

attention to the Europa League – both winning it and making sure

they at least finish seventh to qualify for it again if not. The

Reds face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals later this month. This

encounter could yet prove a dress rehearsal for the final with

Fulham also through to the last four. Benitez will hope to find a

cutting edge if so, as his team dominated and created numerous

chances without managing to break through. They badly missed top

scorer Fernando Torres – missing with a knee injury – but also

found Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in top form. Benitez said:

“I am disappointed because I feel that we had plenty of possession.

“We had good chances and it is a game that is normally 1-0 or 2-0,

but we couldn’t score.” Benitez felt Fulham should have been

reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes when Jonathan Greening, already

booked, blatantly blocked a Glen Johnson run. “I will not say too

much,” Benitez said. “We still deserved to win with 11 players but

it is very clear.” Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was pleased with the

resilience shown by his side. The Cottagers created few

opportunities but defended with great determination throughout.

Hodgson said: “There is no doubt Liverpool dominated the game and

we were forced on to the back foot but at the same time we stood

our corner very well and fought very hard. “We stopped them getting

clear-cut chances and it was really when we just lost (Daniel)

Agger for a corner at the end that I was concerned the ball was

going to go in the back of the net. “On the occasions when they got

good strikes in Mark Schwarzer was equal to it. It is another

excellent clean sheet. “I have got to be very satisfied with what

the team has done because Liverpool are a very difficult team to

take points off home or away.” Hodgson revealed top scorer Bobby

Zamora was replaced midway through the second half to rest slight

calf and Achilles problems.