Benitez hails goal-shy pairing of Bellamy and Kuyt

September 13, 2006

Rafael Benitez hailed his speedy new strike partnership of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt after Liverpool's 0-0 draw at PSV Eindhoven in their opening Champions League match.

The double act struck up an instant understanding in the Philips stadium - giving Benitez plenty of encouragement for the future.

He said: 'They are both quick, intelligent players - and I was very pleased that they struck up an understanding so quickly.

'We have worked on things in training. I felt they may well achieve an immediate understanding, and that is what happened.

'Their movement was good; they knew where each other was all of the time, and they are quick and clever with their play. I was delighted with them.'

Whether Benitez maintains the double act as they approach the rest of the season, and Chelsea on Sunday, is nonetheless anyone's guess.

He has now produced two line-ups in successive matches which have surprised observers, Bellamy not involved against Everton and Steven Gerrard left out against PSV last night.

The Anfield captain was one of six players axed from the side that lost the Merseyside derby to Everton on Saturday.

Benitez explained: 'Steven was on the bench, as were several other senior players - Xabi Alonso, Peter Crouch, Sami Hyypia - but people only mention Gerrard.

'We must accept that nobody can play at 100% for every match. It was a very difficult game against Everton, and you can see that the players who were involved for all that game were on the bench.

'If you are not 100% fit and ready then you will be rested like that. It will happen to different players.'

Liverpool secured an encouraging point to get their campaign off to a good start - but Gerrard could easily have won it for them with a stunning hook against a post after coming on as substitute.

Benitez said: 'He came on at the right time. We had needed to cover and work to stop their penetrating passes, and that is why Momo Sissoko started. He has fantastic stamina, better than Alonso or Gerrard can reach.

'Now we have more options and we can use players in this way. We were intent on a clean sheet after that happened on Saturday - and we defended well and created enough chances to have won the match.'

PSV boss Ronald Koeman admitted his surprise at Liverpool's line-up.

'When I saw their team sheet I was shocked ... no Gerrard, no Alonso, no Hyypia, no Crouch.

'In the end, though, I was happy with a draw - especially because Liverpool used eight men behind the ball for much of the game.

'Gerrard could have won it for them at the end. But I was pleased with our performance. We have made many changes during the summer, and it takes time for new players to adapt - so to get a result like this is encouraging for us.

'But we can get better. I did not use Patrick Kluivert, because he is not fully fit yet - and it was a very high level to ask him to come into. But he will play on Sunday here against Feyenoord.

'Drawing this one means that we will probably now have to win an away game at either Galatasaray or Bordeaux. Those two sides drew their match 0-0 as well, so the group is very tight.'