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By ESPN Staff

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool can still mount title challenge

Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez insists his side can still mount a title challenge despite losing their third game of the season 2-0 at Chelsea.

• Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool
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Liverpool lost only two matches last term but second-half goals from Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka and substitute Florent Malouda condemned them to their third defeat inside the opening eight matches of the current campaign.

It is more than 40 years since any team have gone on to win the top-flight crown after losing three of their first eight games. But Benitez is unconcerned by the statistics and pointed out there is still a long way to go before their own title hopes can be dismissed.

"I feel the performance wasn't bad against a good team,'' said Benitez. "We worked hard, had some good play. Defensively we were good enough. They didn't have too many chances, so we were defending better. We didn't have too many chances, which means they're also a good team.

"But if you make a mistake against a good team, they score. The game was a bit more open after they scored and we had some chances but you have to take those if you want to come back into the game. Our target has to be the next game. It's important to keep calm, keep working, improving. We came up against a good team doing well today, so we have to focus on the next game.

"This year, the top sides will lose points against the other teams, so the main thing is to try and improve and do better each week. We will try to do better against Sunderland. We drew a lot of games last season. We lost just two but people were telling me about the draws. Now we're winning more and losing a few but maybe we'll have more points.''

Javier Mascherano lost possession for Chelsea's opener but Benitez refused to single out any of his team. "I cannot blame any one of the players,'' he added. "We have to be pleased with the team effort. We made some mistakes but I was happy with the team effort. That was something we wanted to do. We were right 90% of the time.

"But it's a long race. Chelsea are very strong but we'll try to stay as close as possible and see what happens in April and May. You will see the top sides losing more points against any team. That's good for the Premier League, for the competition, but it means we have to keep going. We can't think about three defeats. It's one game at a time, try to win the next game and improve. That's it.''

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti was pleased his side had returned to winning ways. He said on Sky Sports: "It was a good performance, Liverpool are a strong team. We stayed compact and a good counter-attack led to the first goal. We got Wigan out of our mind after that game. Today we played very well with good concentration. It was fantastic.''


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