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Benitez warns Pool to stay calm after Chelsea triumph

sports Updated: Oct 27, 2008 09:33 IST

AFP
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Rafa Benitez has told his Liverpool stars their stunning 1-0 victory at title rivals Chelsea will count for nothing if they slip up against Portsmouth this week.

Benitez's side moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League thanks to Xabi Alonso's deflected winner at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

After four years watching from the sidelines while Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal fought it out for the title, this was the result which announced Liverpool's arrival as serious contenders.

Ending Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten run in home league matches will give Liverpool a huge confidence boost. But Reds manager Benitez knows a win in Wednesday's home clash with managerless Portsmouth is essential to keep the momentum going.

"Clearly I think we have to calm down and start thinking about Portsmouth," Benitez said. "We knew it was important to beat United then we drew with Stoke.

"We prefer to beat Chelsea and see what happens with Portsmouth. If you want to stay top of the table for a long time you have to beat almost everyone because Chelsea and United will be behind us.

"We have the mentality we need to fight against the top sides. To win here was difficult for every team and our fans have to enjoy it."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson had dismissed Sunday's showdown as an insignificant match in the context of the title race, but Benitez begs to differ.

Liverpool have already beaten United and Chelsea in the first three months of the season and achieved both wins without star striker Fernando Torres.

Benitez finally has a squad with enough depth to take on the best and Liverpool are clearly in the mood to end thier 18-year wait to be crowned kings of English football.

"To win here and stay top of the table unbeaten is a massive message for the other teams," Benitez said.

"It was a massive game and to come here with the mentality we had and with the players showing the character they did, it was a big boost for the rest of the season.

"We have belief, we have quality and we have shown by coming from behind in other games this season, that we have character. At least this is enough to be top of the table for now.

"But we need three points in our next game against Portsmouth if we are going to keep this mentality."

While Benitez tries to keep his players' feet on the ground, Luiz Felipe Scolari must lift Chelsea before another top of the table clash at Hull on Wednesday.

With Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack injured, Chelsea looked impotent against Liverpool's well-organised defence and Scolari was infuriated by the way they pumped hopeful long balls forward.

But the Chelsea boss has few options to change his team due to the injuries currently ravaging his squad.

"I need to give learn and confidence to these players. These are the players I have in this moment because I lost some with injury but this is the manager's life," Scolari said.

"It is only the second time that we didn't get a goal. I have the same confidence in my players.

"I expect difficult games every week. I saw many games before I came to England and not one game is easy.

"When you think you will win maybe you will lose because all the teams have good conditions in England.

"I saw my players try to do their best and I don't ask for more than that. On Monday we will have a meeting with the players and we need to think about Hull on Wednesday."

Liverpool had snatched the lead in the 10th minute. Dirk Kuyt flicked on a long throw and John Terry could only head weakly to the edge of the box, where Alonso drove in a shot that struck Jose Bosingwa and deflected past wrong-footed keeper Petr Cech.

Salomon Kalou had a chance to level minutes later when referee Howard Webb waved play on after Jamie Carragher crunched into Frank Lampard. Kalou had just Jose Reina to beat but his snatched shot trickled tamely to the Liverpool keeper.

In the second half Alonso lashed in a low free-kick that left Cech rooted to the spot as it cannoned into a post.

The hosts should have equalised in the 73rd minute when Franco Di Santo headed Lampard's cross to Ashley Cole, but the England left-back blazed his shot well wide and with that miss went Chelsea's last chance.