Benitez expects derby joy to kick-start season

08:40, February 08, 2010      

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Rafa Benitez expects 10-man Liverpool's battling 1-0 win over Merseyside rivals Everton to be a defining moment in their bid to land a Champions League place.

After a dismal run in the first half of the campaign threatened to wreck Liverpool's hopes of securing a top-four finish, Benitez's team is now unbeaten in seven league matches and back in the hunt for a European spot.

For much of the season Benitez has been forced to find excuses for Liverpool's failings and at times has looked in danger of losing his job.

But the spirit in Liverpool's dressingroom remains strong judging by the way they recovered from Sotirios Kyrgiakos's first-half dismissal to beat Everton thanks to Dirk Kuyt's second-half header at Anfield.

The game will be remembered as a bad tempered affair, Liverpool forced to play with 10 men for almost an hour after Greek defender Kyrgiakos was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Marouane Fellaini.

Fellaini was fortunate not to be red-carded in the same incident after appearing to stamp on Kyrgiakos while Steven Pienaar, who was later dismissed in stoppage time after his second yellow card, escaped after a poor challenge on Javier Mascherano as tempers boiled over at Anfield.

But Benitez could afford to take a cool view of Kyrgiakos's dismissal and he believes his side can kick-on after such a "massive' result".

"It's always important to win a derby but to win a derby with 10 players at Anfield is even more important," Benitez said. "We did well from the very start and my players worked so hard.

"It's a credit to us that Everton didn't put us under much pressure in the second half because we played so well. Hopefully, we can now stay in and around fourth spot. There's still a lot of games to go and it's a long race."

As Benitez savored his team's gutsy effort, Everton manager David Moyes insisted his side did not deserve to lose the 213th Merseyside derby.

Moyes insisted Kyrgiakos and Pienaar deserved to be sent off by referee Martin Atkinson. But the Scot said Everton did enough to stretch their unbeaten Premier League run to 10 games.

Instead they entertain title-chasing Chelsea on Wednesday looking to avoid back-to-back defeats after Kuyt's winner cemented Liverpool's fifth straight home league win.

Source: China Daily/Agencies
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