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By ESPN Staff
Sep 18, 2006

Disappointed Benitez takes the long view

Rafael Benitez predicts his Liverpool team will overcome their stuttering start to the Premiership season.

A 1-0 defeat at Chelsea yesterday left the Reds eight points adrift Jose Mourinho's champions.

They have only one point from three away games in the league and have only scored once on their travels - a Robbie Fowler penalty at Sheffield United.

Benitez said: 'The disappointing thing is that we are losing but I have confidence in the team if we keep playing like this.

'It's clear we are improving. It's clear we need more points but there's a long way to go. It is the beginning of the season.'

Didier Drogba scored the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge with a spectacular volley three minutes before half-time.

Chelsea played most of the second half with 10 men after Michael Ballack was sent off for stamping on Mohamed Sissoko.

Liverpool battled hard for the equaliser but could not find a way past Petr Cech.

Benitez said: 'If you analyse the whole game, I think we deserved more.

'We created some clear chances against a good team. They had 10 men but they are experienced and they keep the ball.

'In the last three games away we have been improving. We have more attempts than the home teams.

'We lost the game because Drogba is a good player, not because we made mistakes.'

Dirk Kuyt rattled the bar with a fierce shot and Petr Cech made crucial saves to deny Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch.

Benitez thought his team should have been awarded a penalty in the second half when Frank Lampard gave Steven Gerrard a nudge as they both tussled to reach a cross.

The Liverpool boss said: 'Lampard pushed Gerrard clearly but we can also talk about Sissoko. It was a second yellow card, it was a penalty but the only thing that matters is the final score.'

Sissoko was lucky to stay on when he mistimed a sliding challenge on Lampard in first-half stoppage time.

The Liverpool player had already been booked for a foul on Claude Makelele.

Referee Mike Riley gave a free-kick but decided not to show Sissoko a second yellow.

Gerrard played in an unfamiliar role on the left of Liverpool's midfield with Jermaine Pennant on the right and Xabi Alonso partnering Sissoko in the centre.

Benitez said: 'Pennant is playing well on the right and we have Sissoko and Alonso in the midfield.

'Steven can do good things for us on the left, coming inside and he showed that.'

Chelsea boss Mourinho also expects Liverpool to be involved in the title race despite their slow start.

Mourinho said: 'There are a lot of weeks to go and a lot of matches to play. Liverpool will be involved. But I expect them to finish behind us.'