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Benitez praises spirit of players
May 26, 2005 12:13 IST
Rafael Benitez saluted the pride of his players, as well as his own half-time shift in tactics, for bringing Liverpool an unbelievable Champions League final victory over AC Milan.
Liverpool conceded the opening goal against AC Milan inside the first minute and were 3-0 down by the end of an appalling first half.
"We couldn't go out to play another 45 minutes in front of our supporters and lose by four or five goals," Benitez said.
"We got an early goal and we started believing it was possible."
Benitez's plan B involved switching to a three-man defence, while pushing captain Steven Gerrard further forward.
It worked to devastating effect as Gerrard headed in Liverpool's first in the 54th minute and further goals came from Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso.
Benitez decided to be more cautious once the game had finished 3-3 at the end of 90 minutes and he asked Gerrard to play at right-back and keep Brazilian winger Serginho quiet during extra-time.
The tactic paid off and Liverpool were able to seal victory 3-2 on penalties, leaving Benitez scarcely able to believe the result after such a poor start.
"We started really badly and I was very disappointed," he said. "We gave away a silly foul, lost a silly goal and then lost a player to injury.
"But I'm proud of the players for the way they came back."
Benitez took the job of rebuilding the fading Liverpool team after leading Valencia to victory in the UEFA Cup last season.
Victory over Milan capped that achievement but the Spanish coach was able to keep his perspective at the end of the match.
"It might be the greatest night of my life in footballing terms," he said. "But I have a wife and two children and I'm not allowed to say that it's simply the best night of my life."