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By ESPN Staff

Rafa rants at officials after Liverpool slump

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was left less than impressed by referee Phil Dowd - and claimed fourth official Stuart Attwell was "too young'' after watching his side lose their opening Barclays Premier League fixture 2-1 at Tottenham.

Benitez, though, was more than a touch irritated when referee Dowd did not point to the spot after substitute Andriy Voronin appeared to be blocked by Assou-Ekotto, and also when further appeals for a handball against the same defender during the closing stages were dismissed.

Assistant manager Sammy Lee was eventually sent from the dugout for taking his protests too far. Lee was particularly vocal towards Attwell.

Benitez said: "Everybody could see there was a penalty against Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable. With this referee, I knew this (another penalty) was impossible.''

Asked for his overall assessment of Dowd, Benitez went to his pocket and pulled out his glasses.

The Liverpool manager added: "We had a meeting the other day, and they said we cannot talk about the referee as a person or the decisions, but I think everybody today could see the situation.''

Attwell became the youngest referee in the Premier League when he took charge of Blackburn's match against Hull in August 2008.

However, the 26-year-old was at the centre of last season's 'Phantom Goal' controversy involving Reading and Watford.

Discussing Attwell, the Liverpool manager said: "The fourth official is a young referee, and maybe he needs to calm down a bit. I do not know how old he is, but the fourth official is too young.''

Benitez did accept Liverpool were just not up to their usual high standards this afternoon as they failed to match the opening-game wins of probable title rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We did not play well in the first half, but were much better in the second, when we pushed harder and had more options in the final third,'' he said.

"Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these types of games.

"We have to improve in the middle, keeping the ball. The understanding has to be better.

"But it is too early, and we have another game on Wednesday when clearly we have to improve in the possession.''

Even though Gerrard was passed fit following a groin problem, the link was poor between attack and a midfield which is now missing Xabi Alonso after his sale to Real Madrid.

"We had games without Alonso last season, and won a lot of games, so I think we have enough quality in the squad, and we have to prove this,'' insisted Benitez. "We knew that we had to play well, but it was not because of the pressure on us.''

Benitez added: "As a team, we were not comfortable in possession during the first half. Gerrard was doing his job, but the rest of the team were not playing well. Everybody has to improve. We have to win the next game, but for everything else, it is too early.''

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp refuted the claims of a penalty against Assou-Ekotto.

Redknapp said: "The first penalty was a nailed-on one. I have no arguments about that at all as Gomes come out and fouled Glen Johnson.

"However, I did not think Liverpool's shout for a second penalty was right as Assou-Ekotto has just eased Voronin off the ball. It is the kind of bread-and-butter stuff that defenders do week-in, week-out. The ball was also running away from Voronin.''

Redknapp was delighted with his side's display following more summer rebuilding work at White Hart Lane.

He said: "We frustrated Liverpool, forcing them to knock the ball long, and our two centre-halves could just head the ball away. It was a good performance, but now we need to go to Hull on Wednesday and do it all again. We have to go there and show what we are made of.''

Tottenham have been linked with an £11m move for Celtic midfielder Scott Brown. Redknapp, though, insisted reports of an imminent bid for the 24-year-old were wide of the mark.

'I have read I was at Aberdeen on Saturday looking at Scott Brown - I was in fact at Chelsea because they played Hull and we play them on Wednesday,'' he said. 'I like Brown, but we have not made an enquiry for him.''


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