Benitez offers little on Keane's omission


SOCCER: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez brushed aside concerns over Robbie Keane's absence from yesterday's FA Cup tie with Everton and was dismissive of Merseyside rival David Moyes' defensive tactics.

The sides finished 1-1 in a pulsating fourth-round showdown at Anfield, and now must meet again on February 4 at Goodison Park in a replay for the right to face Aston Villa or Doncaster in the last 16.

But after yesterday's stalemate, Benitez did little to hide his dislike of Everton's defensive system over two meetings between the clubs in seven days, with both the cup and league matches ending 1-1.

After his ineffective display in last Monday's league meeting, Keane did not even make the bench, with teenager David Ngog getting into the squad ahead of the Republic of Ireland striker.

Benitez would only say: "Robbie Keane was not selected, we have a very good squad. He was not injured.

"He is working hard and that is the most important thing for me. I have not seen him but it is normal for every player to want to be in the squad.

"They want to be in the 11 starters so I expect him not to be happy. Ngog was in because he scored two goals for the reserves and we had (Dirk) Kuyt and (Ryan) Babel too. That was four strikers in the squad."

Benitez saw his side concede another goal from a set-piece when Joleon Lescott gave Everton a half-time lead. But Liverpool were rescued by another Steven Gerrard goal after a sublime piece of skill from Fernando Torres to set him up.

Benitez was in no mood to offer any consolation to Keane, and was likewise dismissive of Everton's defensive style.

He said: "One team was trying to win and the other team was trying not to lose.

"We dominated the game, controlled everything but it was just one mistake and they have scored.

"They were coming for a draw, we were trying to win. It is hard against a team with 10 players always behind the ball, but I was very pleased with our performance.

"We know some teams will do the same thing and defend. We just have to learn to upset them and to attack.

"I am only bothered, though, about what we do - whether we win or not. I have never played like that here, and never did this while I was at Valencia, maybe at Extremadura a few times.

"But I do not want to talk about this. I have my ideas and you can see it on the pitch."

Benitez was clearly making the point such tactics are something a small club like his former Spanish outfit would do, but not a major club.

Everton boss Moyes, whose squad was weakened by suspensions and injuries to key players, defended his actions.

He said: "It was a tough game, and now we have come to Anfield twice in a week and got draws.

"There has been a lot said about us not being in the next round, but we have given ourselves a good chance to go through now.

"I have never gone anywhere looking for a draw; I may have taken one in the end, but we look after our business and we do things with a bit of dignity at Everton.

"We got a good point in the league and we have taken a good side to a replay in the cup. From that point of view, we are more than happy."

He added: "We had a lot of players out and Liverpool, over the two games had all their players available. They did not have any injuries."