Substitution a bolt from blue

RAFA BENITEZ explained his shock decision to substitute skipper Steven Gerrard – and declared he would do exactly the same again if it benefited the team.

Gerrard was replaced by Lucas Leiva in the 71st minute, and looked surprised when his number was held up.

But Benitez was unrepentant afterwards and explained: "Steven Gerrard is a fantastic player, there is no doubt about this. But we were playing a game we needed to win and I needed to take decisions.

"If I need to change Pepe Reina, I will change Pepe Reina. Sometimes you need to wait, sometimes you need to do it straight away and today I took the decision.

"Stevie wanted to play. I tried to talk but he was disappointed and now the clever decision is wait and talk to him tomorrow to explain and analyse why.

"I think he will understand because he wants what is best for the team."

Benitez reiterated his belief that Gerrard was playing with "too much passion".

He added: "Some players today were playing with too much passion. You must play with passion, but also analyse that we had plenty of possession and needed to use the ball better. We were giving the ball away and they were causing problems with the long ball.

"Lucas is a player with quality. We needed to control the game because we were playing with 11 players against 10. We were playing with too much passion and we needed to keep the ball and pass the ball. Lucas can do this.

"He nearly scored and he is a really good boy with game intelligence and I have a lot of confidence in him.

"Sissoko was doing a fantastic job. If he didn’t give the ball away sometimes he would be the best player in every game because he runs more than anyone, he regains more balls than anyone and he covers all his team-mates.

"He needs to improve in front of goal, but I am really pleased with him.

"Mascherano was keeping the position in front of the centre-backs so I needed to change for a player who could play between the lines around the other midfielders."

That meant sacrificing his skipper.

The switch ultimately paid off, with Lucas forcing the match-winning penalty kick, but Benitez refused to admit his side got lucky in the dying seconds when Joleon Lescott was denied a clear penalty.

"I think the penalty decisions today were very clear. I have a good memory and last season we conceded two goals from two fouls in this fixture," he said.

"I’ve been watching the DVDs this week, but nobody was talking about that this year.

"It was a disaster because we conceded three goals, but two of them were fouls. Now we score with two penalties that were penalties.

"If we analyse every situation like this in a derby, maybe there will be 10 penalties in every derby.

"David Moyes thinks he has been hard done to. Last season I was thinking the same. For me, the incident at the end wasn’t a penalty." but last season there were two fouls which resulted in two goals.

"We have been creating chances but not scoring goals, and today was more or less the same. We need to keep going, keep creating chances and if people score we will have more confidence.

"This game will hopefully be good for our next game."

Benitez agreed with referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision not to dismiss Dirk Kuyt for a two-footed lunge at Phil Neville.

"I thought a yellow card was okay. he added. "I have seen a lot of tackles worse than this one.He was very aggressive, but he didn’t touch the player. He tried to stop the cross and there was no intent to harm the player." Not Dirk Kuyt.

"Today every single foul was a penalty and every tackle a red card because it was a derby."

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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