BENITEZ PUTS ON BRAVE FACE

BUDAPEST - Embattled Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said that he and the squad should remain positive despite bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage for the first time in six years on Tuesday.

BUDAPEST - Embattled Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said that he and the squad should remain positive despite bowing out of the Champions League at the group stage for the first time in six years on Tuesday.

Liverpool did manage to eke out their second win in 11 matches, a 1-0 away victory over pointless Hungarian side Debrecen but Fiorentina's 1-0 victory over already qualified Lyon in Florence brought down the curtain on any thoughts of progressing to the knockout stages.

Benitez, whose multi-million budget is in stark contrast to Debrecen's limited transfer budget of just more than £1,5million (R18,6m) a year, was already turning his attention to the Liverpool derby this weekend against Everton as they try and claw back a massive 13-point deficit to Premier League leaders Chelsea.

"I am trying to be very positive," said 49-year-old Benitez, who made an immediate impact in his first season as Liverpool manager by landing a remarkable victory over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.

"The players know that when we have Steven Gerrard on the pitch and when we have our other big players available, we will improve.

"We must remain positive, and think about the next competition. And that is Everton.

"We have to win against Everton, that is our priority now.

"If we can do that we must think of winning several games in a row.

"We needed to win (on Tuesday) and hopefully now things will change and we will win more regularly.

"Our fans realise the team was working hard. We are paying for mistakes in the last minutes of other games in this group, they know you have to do well right from the beginning of a group," he said.

Liverpool conceding late goals twice against Lyon, which cost them four points, and a place in the knockout round. - Sapa-AFP

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