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English Premiership

Hope springs eternal – Rafa

LIVERPOOL, Nov 10 – Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez refused to concede that the title is out of his side's reach despite being 11 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea after a 2-2 draw with Birmingham on Monday.RAFA_BENITEZThe Reds have won just one in nine and went into the game against the strugglers on a run of six defeats in eight games.

Even though the miserable run continued – and Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera were added to Liverpool’s injury list with hamstring tears – Benitez insists he is not troubled by the bigger picture.

"I think that for the last three weeks to a month, it’s been the same," said Benitez.

"We only think about one game at a time so I can’t talk about anything else, just three points, so I won’t talk about the table or positions.

"We won six games in a row before and when we were under pressure we won against Manchester United, playing really well and the character has been fantastic but we couldn’t achieve the three points against Birmingham."

Benitez has acknowledged that Liverpool’s poor luck with injuries has been a key part in their poor start to the season. Fernando Torres was absent against Birmingham with a groin problem and remains doubtful for the game against Manchester City after the international break, having been withdrawn from Spain duty.

As well as Benayoun and Riera, Benitez also revealed that Danish defender Daniel Agger was struggling with a back problem to even taint the good news of Steven Gerrard coming off the bench to score from the spot after a groin problem of his own.

But Benitez is hoping that the international break will finally bring some good news on the injury front, which should lead to an improvement in results.

"We have some players here and we can work with them but there’s a difference in match fitness and to be available," said the 49-year-old.

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"Torres had no confidence so he couldn’t play so he’s started his treatment.

"He has to work with physios and try to improve and be ready so we are not talking about an operation, we are talking about treating him properly.

"It’s not a deadline so it’s a case of seeing how he reacts every day.

"After the international break, we will see. At least we have Gerrard and Alberto Aquilani coming back and maybe three or four more will be available. We can manage maybe a little bit better."

After David Ngog gave Liverpool the lead against Birmingham, Alex McLeish’s side pulled ahead through goals from Christian Benitez and Cameron Jerome.

But Ngog went down under a Lee Carsley challenge to earn Liverpool a penalty that Gerrard converted, though there was no physical contact between the two players.

Even Benitez acknowledged that it might not have been a spot-kick.

"It could be that it wasn’t a penalty but sometimes when you have a lot of chances," said the former Valencia coach.

"It’s not easy and not fair sometimes but we’ve had a lot of situations against us this year and after a game like this when we deserved more, I think it’s something that you can’t change but it was positive for us.

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"I was asking David and he said that maybe it wasn’t a penalty."

McLeish was furious with referee Peter Walton’s decision to award the spot-kick but delighted with his team’s display at Anfield, and particularly with a first goal in English football for Ecuador forward Benitez.

"Chucho is a handful and it’ll do him the world of good," said McLeish.

"As they say, you wait ages for a bus to come along and loads come along and hopefully that’ll be the case for Chucho and Cameron.

"We’ll maybe look back and think we’ll never have a better chance of getting three points at Anfield.

"If we can marry his (Chucho) culture to ours then we’ve got a superb wee player there.

"Its a little alien to the game he played in and he’s got to get used to that and realise that everyone means the best for him. He’s adapting well."

McLeish, though, was in no doubt that Ngog had dived to win the penalty.

"I don’t think there’s any real debate on it. It was a clear dive from Ngog, he’s won his team a penalty and it happens in the game.

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"It’s happened for centuries and we have to take it on the chin. It was a terrific dive."

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