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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Rafa sets sights on title after historic Reds win

Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez believes their victory over Chelsea has sent a "massive message'' to their Premier League title rivals.

Liverpool ended Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten home league record thanks to a deflected first-half goal from Xabi Alonso.

It put Liverpool three points clear at the top of the table and Benitez could not hide his satisfaction after guiding them to their best-ever start in the Premier League.

"To win here and stay top of the table unbeaten is a massive message for the other teams,'' declared Benitez.

"It was a massive game and to come here with the mentality we had and with the players showing the character they did, it was a big boost for the rest of the season.

"We have belief, we have quality and we have shown by coming from behind in other games this season, that we have character. At least this is enough to be top of the table for now.

"But we need three points in our next game against Portsmouth if we are going to keep this mentality.

"We can go to any stadium and win games. Today, against a very good team, a very offensive team, we showed we were thinking about winning.

"The players know what to do and it is difficult for the opposition to create chances. Chelsea had some chances but their final pass was not the best on occasions.

"They didn't have too many chances. My players were really good and all credit to them. When you have players with quality and they work so hard, you have a winning team.

"But we have to come down and start thinking about Portsmouth. We knew it was important to beat Manchester United but then we drew with Stoke.

"But clearly if you want to stay at the top of the table for a long time you have to beat almost everyone because Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal will be behind you.''

Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, beaten for the first time since taking charge in the summer, admitted his players had resorted to long-ball tactics in a bid to save their unbeaten home league record.

Liverpool became the first team to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the league since Arsenal's 2-1 success in February 2004 and Scolari admitted his players had been left 'very sad' by their defeat.

But the Brazilian coach was more concerned with the loss of three points than a long-standing record he had little to do with.

"We did not expect the result,'' said Scolari. "But we need to understand that Liverpool have a very good team.

"They didn't play better than us but they took their chance. In the first half we dominated the game and in the second we had more possession of the ball and passed it well until we got near their penalty area.

"After this we crossed many balls but they had a good defensive line and dealt with every one. We didn't play as we have done in other games because we didn't have the space.

"We only had space to cross. This is not the football we play normally. We need to try and play on the ground, not high balls, because I don't have big strikers.

"But this is what happened today and they won. It is just three points. Now, they are three points in front of us, that is it. I say sorry to the fans but we were not better than Liverpool today and they won.

"I saw my players try to do their best and I don't ask for more than that. Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the players and we need to think about Hull on Wednesday. This game is finished.

"The players are sad, but it is normal. But it is only one game. I didn't want my players to play high balls.

"I don't need them to put the ball in the box all the time. But they lost the confidence to touch the ball and were afraid of not changing the result. I said to them 'Look, try to keep on playing but they didn't listen'.''

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