Football - Liverpool FC: A DEJECTED Rafael Benitez admitted Liverpool’s Europa League exit last night summed up Liverpool’s season.
Goals by Alberto Aquilani and Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool the upper hand in the tie until Diego Forlan added to his first leg strike when he scored a vital away goal in extra-time to send Atletico Madrid into the final where they will now meet Fulham.
It brought to an end Liverpool’s hopes of silverware in a season that has seen Benitez’s team lurch from one disappointment to another.
Liverpool now face two crucial Premier League games against Chelsea on Sunday and then Hull City a week later.
They must win both to have any chance of claiming fourth place.
“This season has seen many things go wrong but at least we could see the players working hard right until the end,” said Benitez.
“We have to be proud of them.
“But, yes, the season has not been good enough.
“Now we must concentrate on our two remaining league games and then be ready for next year because this season has not been good.”
Injuries to Fernando Torres and David Ngog forced Benitez to reshuffle his team.
Dirk Kuyt assumed the lone striking role while Italian international Aquilani filled in behind him.
That saw Steven Gerrard drop back into a holding role, while Javier Mascherano went to right-back with Glen Johnson moving across to the left.
Johnson was at fault for Forlan’s goal but Benitez refused to point the finger at anyone.
“It is clear we had some problems with injuries,” said the Liverpool manager.
“David Ngog was on the bench but he wasn’t right so we had to look for other options.
“Nabil El Zhar and Dani Pacheco came on because they are offensive players and we were trying to do something different.
“The players were really tired. We could see some players working really hard at the end but it was difficult.
“It was easier for Atletico to defend and play on the counterattack.”
Liverpool had been favourites to win the Europa League since dropping out of the Champions League. Benitez said the club’s failure to do so should not deter them from attracting players during the summer though.
“Liverpool is a massive club,” he said.
“We will try to do our best to bring players in. We will still have the same opportunities.”
Benitez repeated his comments that Liverpool need to sign up to five players this summer to avoid another disappointing season.
“We have been talking in the past and heard some of the players say that we need three, four or five new players.
“I agree with them and this is what we need to do if we are to be able to challenge.
“This year we have had to balance the books. Will this change in the summer? I don’t know.
“We will have to wait and see.”
Asked about speculation surrounding his future at the club, Benitez simply said: “The future is Chelsea and then Hull.”