Friday, 24 July 2009

Benitez buoyed by Gerrard verdict


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is delighted that captain Steven Gerrard can return to his team after being found not guilty of affray.
Gerrard, 29, missed the Reds' Far East pre-season tour to attend court and will now meet up again with the squad on their return to Europe next week.
"We are really pleased," said Benitez. "He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football.
"We are all pleased at the club and over here at the training camp."
Gerrard made an immediate and successful return to action by starting for Liverpool reserves on Friday evening at Prenton Park against Tranmere Rovers, who are managed by Anfield great John Barnes.
He was part of a very youthful Liverpool side which fell behind to a Chris Shuker goal just before half-time.
But before being substituted after 63 minutes, Gerrard blasted a fine equaliser with a low drive from outside the box.
Gerrard figured in Liverpool's first two pre-season friendlies against St Gallen and Rapid Vienna before missing the first team's trip to Thailand.
"We have been supporting him all the time and were just waiting for the decision," added Benitez.
Steven Gerrard: "I'm glad to put this case behind me"
"Now he can concentrate just on football and hopefully play at the same level as last year."
Midfielders Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun sat out the 1-1 draw against Thailand with an ankle injuries but should play a part against Singapore.
Alonso's return, in particular, will be significant for Liverpool as he has continually been linked with a switch to Real Madrid.
"I am very happy to have Yossi and Xabi back," he said. "They are working very hard, the tempo of the session was fantastic and the fans really enjoyed it.
"We are trying to step up our training every day, especially for the international players.
"On Friday, we had three teams playing against each other. It was good competition and pleasing for me to see."
Right-back Glen Johnson has arrived as Liverpool's major signing of the summer so far, although he may miss the game on Sunday as he the Reds manage his Achilles injury.
Benitez said: "We are being careful with Glen, we do not want to do any further damage."

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