Football - Liverpool FC: RAFAEL BENITEZ admits Liverpool’s season was summed up by defeat to Chelsea yesterday.
The Anfield outfit ended their home campaign with a morale-sapping 2-0 defeat to the title-chasing Londoners.
A poor backpass from Steven Gerrard was intercepted by Didier Drogba for the first goal on 33 minutes before Frank Lampard netted the second nine minutes after the interval. It means Liverpool will finish outside the top five for the first time in Benitez’s six-year reign.
And of a difficult year, the Anfield manager said: “It’s not the best. Everyone was expecting us to be at the top of table and to be contenders but we had too many problems and we couldn’t.
“We were in the semi-final of the Europa League on Thursday and had a difficult game today – you could see the problems that we had.
“Today was a game similar to the others, we didn’t have many options to react.
“We have to do almost everything perfect for it to be better, if we make one or two mistakes then we don’t have the possibility to react.”
The defeat ended Liverpool’s hopes of Champions League qualification, although Everton’s failure to beat Stoke City 24 hours earlier at least ensured a Europa League berth next season.
“You have to be disappointed when you can’t win and you are not close to the top four,” said Benitez. “But we have guaranteed we are in Europe, so that’s a positive.”
Benitez also paid tribute to the Liverpool supporters after the team embarked on the traditional end-of-season lap of honour after the final whistle.
“We had to say thank you to our fans,” said the Spaniard. “It’s been a very difficult season and they were supporting the team.
“We have to say thank you for their support because it has been more difficult this year than in other years.”
Chelsea’s win means that victory in their final game of the season at home to Wigan Athletic on Sunday will earn them the championship and prevent Manchester United surpassing Liverpool’s total of 18 titles.
And manager Carlo Ancelott said: “I am happy. It was a big, big game in the fight for the title. We played very well. The first half was difficult but the second half was better. Defensively we did a fantastic job and we had chances on the counter-attack.
“There was pressure in this game on us but we kept a good control on our emotions. Liverpool played on Thursday night and to play today wasn’t easy for them.
“They did well in the first half but they were more tired in the second half. It’s never easy to play Liverpool, they have some good players.
“It was a first time at Anfield for me and it has given me good memories.”
Ancelotti pinpointed Gerrard’s mistake as the turning point in the game, and said: “The first goal was an important goal. It gave us confidence and Liverpool lost the strength that they showed in the first half-hour.”
Goalscorer Drogba added: “He (Gerrard) made a big mistake, but you don’t do things like that on purpose. I was just lucky to be there and score. It was good for us because it gave us a lot of confidence to go on and play. It’s a very good result.”
Meanwhile, Lampard praised Liverpool’s approach to the game with the home side in the ascendancy before Drogba’s opener.
“Their fans still got behind their team and you have to give it to Liverpool for their professionalism,” said Lampard. “It’s been a difficult week for them, being knocked out of Europe, but the fans clapped us off at the end.
“We know that might have had something to do with Manchester United but we had a job to do regardless.”