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Rafael Benitez defends his decision to take off Torres

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Benitez defends substituting 'exhausted' Torres

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has defended his substitution of Fernando Torres in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham, saying the striker was "exhausted".

Torres was replaced on 65 minutes by David Ngog, who missed several chances as Liverpool pushed for a vital win.

"Torres was exhausted, we played 60 minutes with 10 players the other day," said Benitez, referring to Liverpool's 2-1 defeat by Benfica on Thursday.

"Ngog was good because he was a pair of fresh legs and his movement was good."

Ngog also replaced Torres in the closing stages of the Europa League game with Benfica after the Spaniard was deployed as a lone striker following Ryan Babel's first-half dismissal.

We're disappointed because it was a good performance

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez

Torres has scored 20 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season despite a lay-off with a knee injury.

And he was seen nursing his other knee with a pack of ice shortly after taking his place on the Liverpool substitute's bench, though Benitez insisted the striker was not withdrawn because of injury.

Prior to Torres' substitution, Steven Gerrard had given Liverpool the lead early in the second half, but Liam Ridgewell quickly pulled Birmingham level.

The draw leaves Liverpool four points behind fourth-place Manchester City having played a game more than their rivals in the race for the final Champions League slot.

Fifth-placed Tottenham also have a game in hand on Liverpool and are three points ahead with a slightly better goal difference.

However, Spurs arguably have the tougher run-in with three of their six remaining league games coming against the top three in the table.

Their campaign will be defined by a 10-day period in mid-April when they entertain Arsenal and Chelsea before travelling to Manchester United.

But Benitez, who has always maintained that Liverpool would qualify for the Champions League despite an inconsistent season, insisted his side could still snatch fourth place.

"We have to keep going, we were talking before the game about maybe winning five and draw one, so now we have to win five," said Liverpool's Spanish manager.

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"We didn't have any margin for error beforehand and now we have less margin in terms of coming fourth.

"But it depends on the other teams and how they do as well. We have to believe we can win all our remaining games and have confidence the other sides will lose.

"We just have to keep going because there are still a lot of points to play for."

Three of Liverpool's five remaining Premier League games are at home with Fulham and West Ham visiting Anfield in the next couple of weeks.

A trip to Burnley follows before the Reds welcome Chelsea for, on paper, their toughest game of the run-in, although they go to a Hull side on the final day of the season who could need a win themselves to avoid relegation.

Liverpool should have closed the gap on Manchester City to two points, but they wasted numerous chances against Birmingham.

Maxi Rodriguez hit the bar in the first-half, while Ngog missed three chances after replacing Torres.

"It was a great performance," said Benitez. "We had great chance in the first-half and in the second-half we had a lot of chances.

"It was a silly goal to concede, but the reaction of the team was good and we were attacking and creating a lot of chances. We're disappointed because it was a good performance."



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see also
Sunday football as it happened
04 Apr 10 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
04 Apr 10 |  Premier League
Mancini keen to have Hart at City
08 Apr 10 |  Man City
Birmingham 1-1 Liverpool
04 Apr 10 |  Premier League
Benfica 2-1 Liverpool
01 Apr 10 |  Europe
Liverpool need six wins - Torres
29 Mar 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland
28 Mar 10 |  Premier League
Kuyt praises Torres inspiration
29 Mar 10 |  Liverpool
Torres vows to stay at Liverpool
27 Mar 10 |  Liverpool


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