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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 5, 2008

Benitez happy with "fantastic" Liverpool position

Rafael Benitez believes both Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are now in a "fantastic position" to clinch qualification for the Champions League last 16.

The sides drew 1-1 in controversial circumstances in a group D clash at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Liverpool equalised with a Steven Gerrard penalty in the fourth minute of injury time to cancel out a first-half goal from Maxi Rodriguez.

Madrid were furious with Swedish referee Martin Hansson for his spot-kick decision, but a point each now leaves both clubs one win away from qualification.

It could all now be decided on November 26 when Liverpool face Marseille while Madrid host PSV Eindhoven.

Had Madrid held on to their 1-0 lead on Tuesday night, they would already be in the knock-out stage by virtue of the French side's victory over PSV.

Benitez said: "Madrid and us are in a fantastic position now to both qualify, we both need one more win.

"We are disappointed we did not win. But we have one more point and that is positive.

"Madrid had one chance and scored, and in the second half they were dangerous on the counter-attack and at times they could have grabbed another goal.

"But we had so many chances, we should have won the match. Madrid were organised, but only had that one chance."

But the Anfield boss insisted that referee Hansson was right to award an injury-time penalty for a foul on Gerrard that enraged the Spanish team.

Gerrard was felled in an aerial collision with Mariano Pernia, before rapping home the spot-kick himself.

Gerrard himself conceded: "I was not sure it was a penalty, I got to the ball first, and I suppose if that was outside the area it would be a free-kick."

Benitez agreed, saying: "It was disappointing that it all came down to having to score from a penalty.

"There was a clear handball in the second-half that was not given, and had that offence against Steven taken place in the middle of the pitch it would have been a free-kick, so it was a penalty."

He added: "The key for us was not to lose in such a tight match. We are still right up at the top with them, we can both qualify."

Benitez also revealed that Fernando Torres had not been confident enough in his own fitness to be in the squad for the match.

He has now missed six games with a hamstring injury, and Benitez said: "Torres was very close, but he did not have the confidence to play so it was not worth the risk."

Atletico Madrid boss Javier Aguirre amazingly refused to attack referee Hansson for the late penalty decision that cost his side victory.

He said: "I was a long way from the incident, so I could not see properly. But how things change in one minute of football. We were in the last 16 and Marseille had beaten PSV, and then we concede a penalty and it is snatched away, but we just have to keep on fighting.

"But I was still very happy with team effort and the way we worked as a group, maybe we did not get the win we deserved.

"One point will help us, and we still believe we can to the group, we still need points to qualify with one home and one away game but we believe we can still finish on top of the group."

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