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By ESPN Staff
Feb 19, 2008

Rafa: I always had confidence in my players

Rafael Benitez always had confidence that his under-fire team could produce a night of European triumph - and his faith proved well-placed, just four days after the Reds' FA Cup defeat against Barnsley.

Liverpool bounced back from that embarrassment against a Championship side to beat a team rated the best in Europe on current form.

They scored twice in the closing minutes through Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard to clinch a 2-0 win at Anfield against Inter Milan in their Champions League last-16 first leg.

Benitez, his job reputed to be on the line, said: 'This result is good for the confidence of the team, the supporters and the club.

'I always had confidence in my players, they played well with passion and they passed the ball excellently.

'It was clearly much better than the last match - and even though Inter Milan had 10 men for a long spell, they were still formidable opponents who were organised, defended well and were always capable of scoring on the break.

'I accept that we needed this win as a team - we needed to progress in the competition. As a manager, you are always pleased with a win like this - and this is now the time to be happy.'

Benitez believes the red card for Inter defender Marco Materazzi was a correct decision - and also felt Liverpool should have had a second-half penalty when Patrick Viera handled in the box.

He said: 'The red card was clear. It was for two yellow cards, and the referee was right. As for the penalty, everyone could see the Inter player handling the ball.

'But you cannot change things now. It is an excellent win, made better by a clean sheet.

'I know people will say they cannot understand how we can lose to Barnsley and then beat Inter Milan. But on Saturday we changed the team, we had 10 internationals on the pitch and missed a lot of chances.

'This time we were better - we had far less chances but we scored two good goals. It gives us a great chance in the second leg, but we must be careful because Inter are a very good side and they will make it very difficult for us at the San Siro.'

Inter coach Roberto Mancini insisted the referee was wrong to dismiss former Everton defender Materazzi.

'I think the referee got both the yellow card decisions wrong,' he said.

'Neither were worthy of cautions, and the sending-off changed the game.

'I was not surprised by this performance from Liverpool; I knew they would put in a good performance after what happened at the weekend, because they are a good side.

'But Marco's sending-off changed things dramatically. It is hard enough to play at Anfield with 11 men, but with 10 it is very tough.

'But I will not concede that the task is now beyond us. We have another 90 minutes on our own ground, although the second goal they scored has made it all a lot harder.

'But it is not out of our reach. I accept that Steven Gerrard played well, but that only happened after Marco was sent off. It was only then that Gerrard got so much space to use.'