Benitez blasts ref after Benfica beating

BY foxsports • April 2, 2010

Rafael Benitez was left fuming by the performance of ref Jonas Eriksson in Liverpool's Europa League quarter-final first-leg defeat to Benfica.

Defender Daniel Agger had put the visitors ahead by converting Steven Gerrard's ninth-minute free-kick with a clever backheel.

However, Ryan Babel was sent off on the half-hour for pushing a hand in Luisao's face in a melee sparked by the defender's crunching tackle on Fernando Torres.

In the second half two controversial penalty awards allowed Oscar Cardozo to score twice having earlier missed a host of chances. Benitez said he was disappointed with Babel for his response but felt Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson should have been stronger when he only gave Luisao a yellow card.

"I was surprised because a foul from behind is more serious," he said. "I would like to analyse the foul before. And after, when one player is shouting in front of the referee after he already has a yellow card.

"It is a big difference when you kick a player from behind to a player touching another in the mouth.

"It is difficult to understand and impossible to change but we have to move forward and think about Anfield.

"Always decisions against your team you don't like but you cannot change them and the only way now is to try to be positive.

"Half-time was a 1-0 game and we had confidence, I prefer not to talk about problems or incidents."

Torres, in particular, came in for some rough treatment but Eriksson was content to allow it - much to Benitez and his players' anger.

Throughout the second half fireworks were thrown towards Jose Reina's goal, resulting in two stoppages and a report to the UEFA delegate, which did little to improve the visitors' mood.

It was to their credit the Liverpool players, in the main, kept their cool as Torres and Javier Mascherano were both in danger of being suspended for the crucial second leg had they been booked.

Emiliano Insua was not so fortunate, however, and his yellow card late in the first half gives Benitez a problem at left-back next week. Despite the defeat Benitez felt his side had performed well and even though he felt at least one of the penalty decisions was harsh he has urged his players to forget the game and move on.

"I haven't seen the replays but you can't change the decisions," he added.

"Our play for 60 minutes with 10 players was good and we are disappointed because we had chances.

"It means we are a good team because we had chances.

"They (Benfica) were trying to push very hard and we were defending well.

"We showed we can be strong, we can create and we can score goals.

"The team was working very hard and with the fans behind us we can progress in the competition.

"Hopefully we will not need to push too hard (in the second leg), just push and play well and score goals."

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus felt his side should have put the tie beyond reach with the number of chances they created.

"We could have scored more but it was not an easy game," he said. "It was easy after the sending-off but we played well, we were more offensive after that and the two best teams in this competition were playing against each other."

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