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Rafael Benitez is relieved at beating Lille in Europe

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Torres makes Liverpool difference - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was delighted after his team overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Lille to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

A Fernando Torres double and a Steven Gerrard penalty secured a 3-1 aggregate win and came 24 hours after midfielder Albert Riera's outburst at the club.

Benitez said: "It was difficult because they are a good team. The atmosphere was great and everybody is happy now.

"We needed to score the third goal just in case and it was a bit of a relief."

The pressure was immense on the Reds with the Europa League the only remaining chance to claim their first piece of silverware for four years.

And Benitez's preparation for the Anfield clash included suspending Albert Riera after the Spaniard, desperate to play in the World Cup, accused his boss of having something "personal" against him and "turning a deaf ear" to players.

Gerrard settled some early nerves with an eighth-minute penalty after a foul on the impressive Lucas, and two goals by Torres, at the start and end of the second half, ensured Liverpool joined Fulham in the last eight.

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Benitez added: "We knew Lille had to push from the beginning and if we did not score an early goal they could carry on with some hope, so this goal gave us some time and some confidence too.

"You could see they were working very hard so it was really good. Lille were dangerous and have some good players with ability and pace."

The win follows last week's 4-1 demolition of Portsmouth in the Premier League.

Liverpool are breathing down the neck of Tottenham who are currently in the fourth and final Champions League spot one point ahead and with one game in hand.

But Gerrard said his side are now primed to face league leaders Manchester United on Sunday and gave his full support to his boss, who some believe could make his Anfield exit.

We bossed the tie in the first leg but tonight Liverpool were better than us

Lille coach Rudi Garcia

"He is the manager and he's allowed to criticise the team at the right time," said the England midfielder.

"But I think the reaction over the last two games has been superb and the plan is to maintain it against Man United.

"It was vital this game didn't go to extra-time [against Lille]. We know how difficult Sunday is going to be.

"We'll enjoy this result and we'll get a warm-down on Friday and we'll look forward to Sunday."

Lille coach Rudi Garcia felt the scoreline flattered the victors.

"I think it was a bit harsh and not a fair reflection but we've nothing to be ashamed about with this defeat," said the Frenchman.

"One thing that slightly disappointed me about the performance was in attack where we didn't really have a cutting edge and we didn't pose enough of a threat.

"We were in with a shout right up until Liverpool scored their third goal, which I think came from a foul. We bossed the tie in the first leg but tonight Liverpool were better than us."



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see also
Liverpool 3-0 Lille (agg 3-1)
18 Mar 10 |  Europe
Liverpool keen to offload Riera
26 Mar 10 |  Liverpool
Europa League as it happened
11 Mar 10 |  Europe
Riera confident of top-four place
19 Feb 10 |  Liverpool
Reds must stick together - Riera
11 Nov 09 |  Liverpool


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