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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 8, 2009

Carragher: Liverpool still in it to win it

Jamie Carragher has told Liverpool's Premier League rivals that Rafael Benitez's comeback kings will fight to the end this season.

Benitez's squad has been stretched to the limit, and the fitness of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres appears the key to their challenge to Manchester United - but spirit has never been in question.

With a reputation for spectacular comebacks after their famous 2005 Champions League win in Istanbul, they needed Torres to climb off the bench to secure a 3-2 victory over Portsmouth yesterday - after going into the final five minutes at Fratton Park 2-1 behind.

"There are a few times that we've come back - so that tells you about the spirit of the team," said centre-back Carragher.

Benitez is short on numbers after offloading Robbie Keane to Tottenham, illustrated by how he expects youngster Krisztian Nemeth to return from a loan spell at Blackpool to play his part in the run-in.

At least the Liverpool manager is seeing the qualities needed to maintain pace with United.

"It is 'desire'," said the Spaniard. "The team showed 'character', and the mentality is very good. The confidence is high - and for the rest of the season that is very important."

Victory at Pompey divided opinion on Benitez - is he a genius or just lucky?

Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Xabi Alonso were on the bench - and defeat looked likely until they were introduced, with David Nugent and Hermann Hreidarsson giving the hosts leads between Fabio Aurelio's strike.

Torres then set up Kuyt for another equaliser, before the Spain striker sealed the points with a powerful header in stoppage-time.

Carragher said: "It's always a gamble when your big names are on the bench.

"But we had extra-time against Everton in the week, so it wasn't about big names but fresh players. They came off the bench to make a difference - and that's what they did."

Dutchman Kuyt added: "It's the choice of the boss. Of course, as a player you always want to play. But it is the manager's choice - and he was right."

Kuyt led the praise for Torres, who will now travel to Spain for his country's friendly against England on Wednesday in Seville.

It was Torres who scored twice against Chelsea a week ago to snatch another victory.

"He was very important against Chelsea, very important against Portsmouth - and I'm sure he'll be very important for the rest of the season," said Kuyt.

Carragher, standing in for Gerrard as captain, added: "In the last two games, he's earned us four points in massive games."

Liverpool needed that touch of class, despite Benitez insisting: "You can see players like (Ryan) Babel, (David) Ngog, (Yossi) Benayoun playing really well, Aurelio as a midfielder - and there is (Daniel) Agger. We have quality."

The facts were that Benayoun and Babel missed open goals in each half, Ngog struggled on his league debut - and full-back Aurelio was playing in an unfamiliar role.

As for Pompey, boss Tony Adams paid the price for failing to make substitutes in time to defend the lead his side had earned.

Chief executive Peter Storrie used his programme notes to insist Adams' job is not in danger, and the Pompey boss said: "At the moment everyone is saying they want me to do the job, so I'll get on with it.

"We've got 13 games to go and have to play the teams around us. March on."

They have not won a league game since November. But in Adams' favour is a positive reception from fans for the performance, and an encouraging debut for Greece veteran Angelos Basinas.

"Fans aren't silly," said Adams. "They are wise. They see performances that have been good - but they've also seen mistakes."

On Basinas, he added: "He keeps the ball and technically he is a very good player."

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