Benitez hails Reds’ desire; Wenger glum over ‘dodgy’ penalty

April 9th, 2008 - 12:07 pm ICT by admin  

Liverpool, April 9 (DPA) Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez praised the character of his side after their thrilling Champions League quarter-final victory over Arsenal. But Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said Liverpool were favoured by a “dodgy” penalty, coming a week after his side were denied a stronger claim for a foul in the area in the first leg.

“I was delighted with the belief, particularly in the second half,” Benitez said after the 4-2 victory at Anfield for a 5-3 aggregate win.

“When we went to 2-2 so near the end, my players showed tremendous character and desire to get up off the ground to win the tie.

“We had been so poor before the break, but so much better in the second half.”

Liverpool came back from a shaky start when Arsenal dominated and led through an Abou Diaby goal until Sami Hyypia headed an equalizer and Fernando Torres struck after the break.

Emmanuel Adebayor made it 2-2 seven minutes from the end to give Arsenal the advantage on the away goals rule but a contentious penalty decided the match in favour of the home side.

Steven Gerrard converted from the spot and Ryan Babel added a fourth in stoppage time.

It sets up a meeting with Chelsea in the semi-finals for the third time in four years.

“It was a tremendous game for our fans, there were six goals and we played so well,” Benitez said.

“I hear Steven Gerrard has said it was a poor game by him, but I was satisfied. He scored a crucially important penalty for us when it really mattered, that was positive from him to take it so well.

“Now we have Chelsea again in the semi-final. Again it will be a very, very tough game against an excellent side. But we have enough experience of such matches and clearly the belief to succeed again.”

Wenger said poor refereeing decisions led to his side going out of the Champions League.

“I felt the game was over at 2-2. Then there was a dodgy penalty and we started to lose concentration,” he said.

“Over the two games this is hard to swallow. The big decisions over penalties have gone against us.

“It is difficult to take, the players in the dressing room are very down because they believe week after week the decisions are going against them.”

Toure was booked for the challenge on Babel, which led to the penalty decision, although TV pictures indicated there was no foul by the defender.

“It was not a penalty,” said Wenger. “I have seen the replay but we were denied a clear penalty last week. That was a real penalty, this one wasn’t.”

However Wenger was not pleased with his side’s defending.

“We conceded a goal from a corner and gave Fernando Torres too much room when he scored,” he added.

“It will be hard now, we have to go to (league leaders) Manchester United (six points ahead) next at the weekend, but we will try to finish strongly. But we still feel a great sense of injustice.”

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