Gerrard wins Benitez praise

Gerrard wins Benitez praise

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hailed the contribution of captain Steven Gerrard after he became the leading English scorer in European competition in the 3-1 victory over Unirea Urziceni.

The England midfielder scored the third goal – his 33rd in Europe to overtake Alan Shearer, who scored 30 for Newcastle and two for Blackburn.

“It is really positive for him and the club – it also means we are playing a lot of games in Europe so hopefully we can play a lot more and he can score more goals,” said Benitez.

“It is very good news for the club. This is an historic club with a lot of records so to have a new record is massive for him and very important to the club.”

Gerrard’s goal topped off a successful trip to Bucharest as Liverpool booked a last-16 encounter against French side Lille.

However, it was not as easy as it seemed as the visitors laboured in the opening 25 minutes, during which time Bruno Fernandes’ header put Unirea in front with the Romanians causing plenty of problems from set-pieces.

Midfielder Javier Mascherano drilled in a 25-yard strike to settle things down and five minutes before half-time Ryan Babel showed great skill to control Gerrard’s free-kick and fire home from close range, leaving the captain to put the tie beyond doubt.

“We showed character. It was a difficult game because of the pitch. We needed to be calm and do the job properly,” said Benitez.

“To play better we needed to score our goal as they were dangerous at set-pieces.

“I think once we scored a goal everything was easier and the second and third goals made things better.

“Still we had some problems but the main thing was to score, we did it and we had more control of the game.”

But just as he thought his injury worries were easing Benitez lost centre-back Martin Skrtel to a suspected broken foot after a second-half clash with substitute Antonio Semedo.

“At this moment we don’t know how serious it is but it could be a broken foot,” said the Spaniard.

“That would be bad news but we will have to wait and see what happens but it was a bad tackle.”

Unirea coach Roni Levy admitted even when his side opened the scoring he did not consider there could be a potential upset.

“I know it was an early goal and we had a long time until the end of the game,” he said.

“The equaliser came very early so I did not have much time to think about what our goal meant.

“What was important was that we were organised and looked like a serious team - irrespective of the result.

“From my opinion we deserved a better result.”

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