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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 23, 2008

Rafa hopes to overturn Stamford Bridge jinx

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez believes his side can overcome their Stamford Bridge hoodoo and still reach the club's third Champions League final in four seasons. The Reds have never scored at the home of Chelsea under Benitez, but they know they must do so now to salvage this semi-final. Benitez said: 'Yes, I realise we have not scored a goal at Chelsea in the Champions League over the past four seasons. But there is always a first time. 'If we play as well as we did in the first leg and take the chances we created, we will get to the final.' Liverpool were ahead in the first half through a Dirk Kuyt goal, but saw their prized victory snatched from them in the fifth minute of injury-time by a John Arne Riise own goal. With an away goal to their name, Chelsea must now be considered favourites to complete the job next Wednesday and reach the May 21st final in Moscow. Benitez said: 'We must now be positive and clear our minds. If we play like that at Stamford Bridge next week and take those chances, we will go through. 'We have confidence in ourselves. I am confident we can do it, I will recall the first 20 minutes of the second period when we were very much on top of Chelsea. 'If we can do that again at Stamford Bridge, we can still get to the final.' Benitez was critical of Austrian referee Konrad Plautz for giving so much added time. He was also upset by the stream of free-kicks awarded by the official - who also refereed the group-stage home defeat by Marseille - against his side. The Spaniard added: 'It was a difficult match and I was very disappointed with the referee. This was not the first time. 'We knew what to expect because we'd had him before against Marseille. He gave just one minute injury-time in the first period and four in the second - it was hard to understand. 'All the free-kicks seemed to go against us. The first four free-kicks against us were for pushing, and then when one of their players (Ashley Cole) pushes one of our players in the back with both hands in the box, there's nothing. 'But we cannot blame the referee for our missed chances. We had at least four clear opportunities, and we must score those.' Benitez also confirmed that he had held brief talks with co-owner Tom Hicks yesterday ahead of the first leg. He said: 'I had a short discussion with Tom Hicks, and the idea now is to set up a meeting involving both owners so we can discuss the future. I believe that is possible and can be arranged.' Chelsea boss Avram Grant believes his side have taken a 'big step' towards the Champions League final. Grant, under intense pressure to bring silverware to the London club, is still on course for a Champions League and Premier League double. He said: 'I do not concern myself with what people say, I am just doing my job to get results. 'And I know that 1-1 away from home in Europe is good result. It is a big step now towards our goal. 'I felt we deserved it. There could have been a couple of penalties for us and we controlled the game until Liverpool scored. 'Both goals came from mistakes, but I must also praise Petr Cech for his performance. He made some important saves, but we are used to that from him. 'But although the draw is good for us, we know it will be tough at Stamford Bridge. It is always difficult for teams to play at Anfield with the support Liverpool's fans create, but it can also be intimidating for teams who visit Stamford Bridge. 'We know this is a big step towards the Champions League final now, and we believe we can complete the task in the second leg.'