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Friday, April 12, 2013
Benitez plays down Lampard-Luiz feud

ESPN staff

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez claims it is a good thing that Frank Lampard and David Luiz argued during Thursday's 3-2 Europa League defeat to Rubin Kazan after the two were embroiled in a heated exchange as both sides left the pitch at half-time.

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Lampard and Luiz confronted one another as the whistle blew and continued their tense argument in front of cameras until Petr Cech and Yossi Benayoun stepped in to calm the situation.

Although the dispute seemed unwarranted with Chelsea heading into the break firmly in control of the tie, Benitez insists his players were simply voicing their opinions and there was nothing sinister behind the confrontation.

"It's always good to have players arguing about things that happen on the pitch so you can correct these things at half-time," Benitez said. "We were talking about that, adjusting positions, so it's fine. Not a problem."

Chelsea progressed to the semi-finals with a 5-4 aggregate win, although their Russian opponents came close to overturning the first leg deficit with a spirited second half showing.

Benitez admits Chelsea's defensive issues - particularly with Branislav Ivanovic only used as a substitute and Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill out injured - will need to be rectified ahead of the next round.

"I'm disappointed because we didn't defend well in the second half but we go through and I'm really pleased with the team and the effort, the players gave everything on the pitch," he said.

"I'm happy with the first half, but we have to improve on the second half, not just the defenders but the whole team. We have to deal with crosses better, but you have to give credit to them as well because they have some players with quality.

"You have to analyse the two games in the right context. We had a good result and came here, it's a different environment and there were different things that we had to manage, but we did well.

"It was a pity to lose the game but we went through and that's the main thing. We were able to use players like Ferreira and Ake, who haven't been playing, and give them a chance. We were able to manage the squad and hopefully we will have some fresh legs for Sunday."

The Spaniard reserved praise for Paulo Ferreira and Nathan Ake who earned rare starts for the Blues.

"If you see the number of games Ferreira's played over the last three years, to come in and play on a synthetic pitch against fast players, he did a good job," Benitez added. "Ake is a good player and also put in a great performance, so I want to praise both players."

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