I was always confident, says Rafael Benitez

By Ian Doyle on Oct 30, 08 09:35 AM in Journalists

RAFAEL BENITEZ claims he was always confident Liverpool would break down a dogged Portsmouth to maintain their Premier League lead.

Steven Gerrard's penalty 14 minutes from time earned the Anfield outfit a hard-fought 1-0 win over their South Coast visitors last night.

It extended Liverpool's unbeaten start to the season and ensured they remain three points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table.

Benitez made four changes from the team that secured a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

And the Anfield manager believes it was important Liverpool did not lose the momentum generated by that historic result.

"After the victory against Chelsea it was very important to get these three points, and to show that we can change four or five players and still win matches," said Benitez.

"The message for the squad and everyone watching us is that we can change players and still maintain our form.

"The message is that we will try to be at the top for a long time, but we must just win the next three points every time.

"We knew Portsmouth would be difficult, and we changed several times during the game looking for solutions. We always had confidence we could score."

Of the decision to hand Lucas Leiva, Jermaine Pennant, Ryan Babel and Sami Hyypia starting roles, Benitez added: "Clearly if we are playing another game in three days, and then we have the Champions League next week, so we have to use different players and fresh legs.

"We need fresh players and you could see some of the side were tired. We now have to manage the squad properly."

Portsmouth , with Tony Adams taking charge of his first game as new manager, produced a determined defensive performance.

Dirk Kuyt and Sami Hyypia both hit the woodwork for Liverpool , but a goal seemed unlikely until Papa Bouba Diop inexplicably handled a Fabio Aurelio corner to allow Gerrard the chance to score from the spot.

And Benitez said: " Portsmouth defended well with a lot of bodies behind the ball and it was not easy to find the space, you have to be very precise with the final pass.

"The pitch was wet and quick and it was not always easy to control the ball, but we were very dominant in the first period and had our chances and maintained possession.

"But in the second period we were a little nervy and when they started to play long balls up to Crouch it was not easy for us."

Benitez also revealed Albert Riera and Robbie Keane, who both emerged as late substitutes, were nursing minor injuries after the weekend win at Chelsea.

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