RAFA DEFENDS FERGUSON OUTBURST
Posted 11/01/09 13:41
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will stand firm should the Football Association decide to look into his controversial remarks about Sir Alex Ferguson.
Benitez alleged in his Friday pre-match press briefing the Manchester United boss had no respect for referees but was never punished.
He also took issue with Ferguson about what he saw as complaints from the Scot about the way the fixtures had been compiled.
Benitez then added fuel to the fire by maintaining his attack on Ferguson in the wake of the 0-0 draw against Stoke and told him to stop talking about Liverpool.
He remains convinced he is right to speak out.
Benitez said: "I do not have to justify anything. I was looking for some facts that everyone knows but no-one wants to say.
"I have a lot of respect for him because he is a great manager but he was talking too much about Liverpool so he has to stop.
"He started talking a long time ago. It won't have the same effect on me because if he talks too much and too quickly then I won't understand so I will be happy."
The spotlight is firmly on Liverpool following Benitez's outburst and whether they can clinch their first title in 19 years.
However he believes he has the players to cope in the crucial weeks ahead.
"I do not think there is extra pressure on us," he told the BBC. "When you are top of the table, you want to win. That is how you approach every game."
The Barclays Premier League leaders gave a lacklustre display at the Britannia Stadium in front of a partisan crowd but they almost secured a victory in the last five minutes.
Steven Gerrard saw his free-kick rattle the bar and a shot come back off the post, following a flick-on from Fernando Torres.
Benitez opted to start with Torres on the bench, even though the striker marked his comeback from a hamstring injury with a goal in the FA Cup victory against Preston.
Benitez said: "He is improving but we knew it would be difficult for him in this match as it would be very physical. We needed to protect him.
"These kinds of games are difficult against a team that is working hard and getting players behind the ball.
"It is not easy to find space and create too many opportunities. But it is one more point, we are still at the top of the table and in a fantastic position."
Stoke, who have made an inquiry about Sheffield United striker James Beattie in a bid to beat relegation, claimed a moral victory.
Rory Delap and Dave Kitson both squandered good chances but manager Tony Pulis took a number of positives from the performance, not least of all the display of Matthew Etherington on his debut.
Etherington arrived in midweek from West Ham and gave Stoke a welcome outlet on the left flank.
Pulis said: "I thought he did really well as he has not played many games recently.
"His fitness is not yet at the correct level but he is a threat. He creates spaces for other people and we've needed that all season."
Etherington said: "We deserved at least the point. They didn't create a lot and we had the better chances.
"I've seen more than enough to think we'll stay up. Teams don't like coming to Stoke. The fans here are unbelievable and it's something special to hear them."