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Benitez retains qualifying hope

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez
Benitez saw his Reds denied a win by a late Lyon goal

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez refused to concede his side's hopes of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League were over after their 1-1 draw in Lyon.

The Reds need to beat Debrecen and hope Fiorentina fail to beat Lyon in the next round of group games to stay in the competition.

"It is difficult for us to qualify, but not impossible," said Benitez.

"We have to win our game and see what happens with Fiorentina and Lyon. Then we will approach the last game."

Ryan Babel had put Liverpool ahead in Lyon only for Lisandro to equalise after 90 minutes to deny the Reds a much-needed win.

The draw put Lyon through to the first knockout round of the Champions League on 10 points, while second-placed Fiorentina have nine points and Liverpool are on four.

"We are really disappointed because it was a great opportunity for us," added Benitez.

We will play to win the next game and that will leave the situation in Liverpool's hands to win their last two games and go through themselves

Lyon manager Claude Puel

"We had some chances, but again it was a late goal against Lyon that made a massive difference.

"If you analyse the goal we conceded, we had a lot of players in position and we were not in a bad position.

"We made a mistake, but not because we were too high or trying to attack. We were trying to control the game, but we couldn't.

"It is something we have to improve on because it has happened before.

"When we are winning we have to close the game out and stop teams scoring against us at the end of matches, like Lyon have done in both games against us.

"We have to learn to keep the ball at times and be stronger in the challenge.

"But football is like this - sometimes you need luck, and we didn't have it in the end."

"We think ourselves this has been our best game in the Champions League so far," keeper Pepe Reina told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"We didn't deserve anything other than the win. So it's really disappointing as we were really unlucky."

Benitez was forced to play Daniel Agger at centre-back, despite the Denmark international having a back problem which meant he stood for most of the flight to France for the game.

606: DEBATE

Sotirios Kyrgiakos partnered him in central defence with Jamie Carragher moving to right-back as Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly were absent through injury.

Steven Gerrard was again missing and striker Fernando Torres played even though he was not fully fit because of a hernia problem.

"I think we had too many problems before the game, so I am quite pleased with the performance of the players," said Benitez.

"We had many players in different positions, and they did well.

"I think it will be good to analyse the performance of the team. The players will see we were working very hard and had many chances and that is positive.

"The players know if they work as hard as against Lyon they will win matches."

Lyon manager Claude Puel was delighted at his team reaching the next phase of the tournament and insisted they would try their best against Fiorentina in the next game.

"We will play fair, we want to win the group and avoid getting a tougher draw in the next stage," said Puel.

"Liverpool have no need to fear what may happen. We will play to win the game and that will leave the situation in Liverpool's hands to win their last two games and go through themselves."



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see also
Lyon 1-1 Liverpool
04 Nov 09 |  Europe
Wednesday football as it happened
04 Nov 09 |  Football
Champions League round-up
04 Nov 09 |  Europe
Under-fire Benitez stays positive
03 Nov 09 |  Liverpool
Hamann urges Reds to back Benitez
02 Nov 09 |  Liverpool
Liverpool 1-2 Lyon
20 Oct 09 |  Europe


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