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Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Benitez blames crucial errors for defeat

Rafael Benitez blamed two crucial errors for Liverpool's first Champions League defeat of the season, 3-2 against Galatasaray in the Ataturk Stadium.

Twice, after taking the lead through Robbie Fowler, Liverpool 'gifted' Galatasaray goals - Xabi Alonso and Gabriel Paletta the guilty pair.

Liverpool boss Benitez also noted it was difficult for his team to be highly motivated for this final Group C match, having already won the group.

He said: 'We paid for bad mistakes - you cannot expect to win if you make mistakes like that at this level.

'I always felt it was going to be a difficult game for the players - they knew they were already group winners and the job had been done.

'So it was more difficult to stage a comeback in such circumstances, as you would in a cup final.'

It was at this same stadium that Liverpool produced perhaps their most famous comeback 18 months ago, to recover from a 3-0 half-time deficit and finally beat AC Milan in the Champions League final on penalties.

They could not raise themselves to such heights this time in a meaningless match - although Fowler did manage a headed second in the final minutes.

Liverpool left Steven Gerrard, Jose Reina, Steve Finnan and Sami Hyypia at home - fielding a side of youngsters and experienced squad men.

Benitez said: 'I wanted to see my players doing well but also to realise that there are younger team-mates who are waiting for their chance.

'I have rested some senior players, because we have such a busy next couple of months with lots of games. I wanted to see what futures there are for the young players and to be able to plan for that future.'

Galatasaray coach Erik Gerets believes Liverpool, with their full team, can go a long way in this season's competition.

He said: 'It was a difficult game for Liverpool. They had already done the job they set out to do, before even coming to Istanbul.

'They are a very good team. It is difficult to judge whether they can go all the way - but with their best players, they can win the tournament.

'I would certainly like to see that, because I like Rafa Benitez and admire his teams. But there are some very good teams left in the tournament.'