Benitez defends players despite loss to Villa | sports | Hindustan Times
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Benitez defends players despite loss to Villa

sports Updated: Aug 26, 2009 11:44 IST
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Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has jumped to the defence of his players and his system despite losing two of his opening three matches of the season.

The Reds were beaten 2-1 at Tottenham on the opening day of the campaign and were defeated 3-1 by Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday night.

Benitez lost key midfielder Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid in the summer and has only managed to bring in Glen Johnson, Alberto Aquilani, who is out injured for at least six weeks, and back-up defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Tight finances at Anfield mean Benitez, whose only points came from a 4-0 win over Stoke last week, is unlikely to be able to bring in any more new players before next week's transfer deadline.

The Spaniard has stuck with the same system, despite Alonso's departure, and, having finished second last season, maintains his side can still mount a challenge, even though they have just three points from three matches.

"Our target is to win against Bolton and that's it. We're not thinking about anything else," he said.

"Everything could change. The first game against Tottenham, if we had a penalty and in this game to score early like against Stoke could be a difference.

"Anyway, we weren't playing well and we were giving the ball away against a team that is good on the counter attack and that was the difference."

Despite being unable to strengthen in the transfer market, Benitez maintains his current squad is good enough.

"With this squad we were winning a lot of games in the last year and we have to do the same this year.

"I think that when you are losing you want to change and have to win. We lost against Tottenham and won against Stoke and we have to try to do the same against Bolton. It's the only way.

"We were playing for one year (with the same formation) and took 86 points and now could be the same. It's a question of being more precise and scoring when we have chances."

Villa picked up three points at Anfield thanks to a Lucas own goal and Curtis Davies header and, after Fernando Torres scored for Liverpool, Ashley Young scored a third from the penalty spot.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is still hoping to add a number of new defenders before Tuesday's deadline.

O'Neill's side fell away from a challenge for the Champions League places with a poor run from February last season.

But O'Neill is also confident in his team's chances, and still angry at the reaction from his own fans during the 2-0 defeat to Wigan on the opening day.

"The run is there but we did actually finish sixth in the league, we did actually qualify for Europe and against Wigan we got booed off at the end of the game and that's fine," he said.

"We got beaten in the match, but we also got booed off 45 minutes competitively after we qualified for Europe so maybe we should have a look at that.

"I was disconcerted and everyone to their own but this is a young side, they will take criticism from me when it's deserved and they'll take the praise if they can and we've got some outstanding players."

O'Neill hopes to sign Blackburn defender Stephen Warnock, as well as a number of other targets before the transfer window closes.

He added: "There are goals in the team and that will give them a bit more belief which is very important.

"The side is very young and we need a little bit more experience and I'm going to try to do something about that in the coming few days."