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Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 22:37 UK

Benitez buoyed by Gerrard verdict

Steven Gerrard and Rafael Benitez
Gerrard and Benitez are hoping for more success together at Anfield

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is delighted that captain Steven Gerrard can return to his team after being found not guilty of affray.

Gerrard, 29, missed the Reds' Far East pre-season tour to attend court and will now meet up again with the squad on their return to Europe next week.

"We are really pleased," said Benitez. "He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football.

"We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp."

Gerrard made an immediate and successful return to action by starting for Liverpool reserves on Friday evening at Prenton Park against Tranmere Rovers, who are managed by Anfield great John Barnes.

He was part of a very youthful Liverpool side which fell behind to a Chris Shuker goal just before half-time.

But before being substituted after 63 minutes, Gerrard blasted a fine equaliser with a low drive from outside the box.

Gerrard figured in Liverpool's first two pre-season friendlies against St Gallen and Rapid Vienna before missing the first team's trip to Thailand.

"We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision," added Benitez.

Steven Gerrard: "I'm glad to put this case behind me"

"Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."

Midfielders Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun sat out the 1-1 draw against Thailand with ankle injuries but should play a part against Singapore on Sunday.

Alonso's return, in particular, will be significant for Liverpool as he has continually been linked with a switch to Real Madrid.

Benitez said he had spoken to the midfielder and urged him to stay at Anfield, telling his fellow Spaniard the fans loved him.

"I talked to Xabi yesterday and told him, as he can see here, that the fans love him and said to him 'Maybe you have to stay," said Benitez.

"You can see he is a really good player and I'll be really pleased if he stays. All the players and his team-mates want him to stay. If we keep Xabi I will be very pleased."

Right-back Glen Johnson has arrived as Liverpool's major signing of the summer so far, although he may miss the game on Sunday as he the Reds manage his Achilles injury.

Benitez said: "We are being careful with Glen, we do not want to do any further damage."

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see also
Gerrard cleared after bar brawl
24 Jul 09 |  Merseyside
Steven Gerrard profile
24 Jul 09 |  Liverpool
Celebration that ended in bar brawl
24 Jul 09 |  Merseyside
Gerrard signs Liverpool contract
09 Jul 09 |  Liverpool

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