Betis blank sends Rafa’s Reds through

Liverpool 0 Real Betis 0

Crouch and Liverpool misfired but the Champions League holders still achieved the 0-0 draw against Real Betis at Anfield that sends them through to the last 16.

The Reds have now completed five successive matches without conceding a goal, and that is becoming their real strength as the team fails to finish off the string of chances they are making.

Betis made life tough, and have ensured they are in the UEFA Cup following this draw.

But Benitez knows too that Liverpool cannot keep on going through games with the tension mounting because they cannot finish teams off at this level.

He said: “I say again, I am happy with Peter Crouch. He was man of the match for me. I am delighted with his contribution, we are winning matches, progressing in Europe and improving in the league.

“For him to play well and continue what he is doing is the most important thing for me.

“He was fine at Aston Villa and we won, he was equally good against Portsmouth and we won. He had plenty of chances and contributed to the performance against Betis and we are in the last 16.

“Of course it is better to see him scoring, but he does so much more in the game to help us achieve what we want.”

Chelsea now have to beat Liverpool in a fortnight in the final Group G match at Stamford Bridge to win the group, but Benitez is unconcerned about that battle for English pride.

He said: “Sometimes winning the group gives you a very difficult second-placed side to play next. Or you can finish second and get a group winner you are happy with.

“It is not important now for me, I am only concerned that we now have time to concentrate on other things and working on our league form.”

Crouch himself said: “I keep getting in the right places. I’ve always said I’m not going to hide, and the goal will come.”

Team-mate Jamie Carragher was also quick to talk down Crouch’s poor goalscoring record.

He said: “We keep saying strikers are always judged on goals but he (Crouch) has got a lot more to his game than that. He was one of the best players tonight. Peter is not an out-and-out goalscorer, he is a good all-round player.”

Betis coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer revealed his bitterness at knowing his side could end with 10 points in the group and still go out of the competition.

He said: “We would feel we will beat Anderlecht on our ground in our last match, and that will give us 10 points and usually that is enough to qualify from a group in the Champions League.

“I have mixed feelings now. We have beaten Chelsea and drawn with the European champions in our first season in the competition.

“I am very pleased with my players, they have given their all and shown a fine work ethic throughout the group matches.

“There are many positive things about how we have performed, but it is bitter-sweet to know we have done so well and have gone out of the competition.

“But we must not forget we have qualified for the UEFA Cup with a game to spare, and that is a fine achievement for us.

“Looking back we could have done better. We will regret how we played in the first 20 minutes against Liverpool in the first game in the group. They took control then and won the match, and that has been very costly for us.”

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard (Potter 90), Hamann, Sissoko, Zenden, Crouch (Kewell 83), Morientes (Cisse 66).

REAL BETIS: Doblas, Melli, Juanito, Rivas, Oscar Lopez, Joaquin, Assuncao (Capi 69), Rivera, Arzu, Xisco, Fernando (Israel 78).

Referee: Eric Poulat (France).

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