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'This does not spell end of title dream' Benitez dismisses comparisons with Birmingham draw.

Byline: By DAVID PRENTICE

RAFA BENITEZ insisted Liverpool did not turn back the clock on Saturday.

The Reds boss urged fans not to see Liverpool's disappointing goalless draw with Stoke as a repeat of the goalless draw with Birmingham last season which appeared to signal the end of another title dream.

On the corresponding weekend last year, the Reds boss was criticised for leaving Fernando Torres and Peter Crouch on the substitutes' bench as Birmingham, later relegated, stole a point.

Against promoted Stoke on Saturday Benitez selected all his big guns, but couldn't find away through the visitors'massed defence.

But he said afterwards: "This is not the same as Birmingham.

"You can see we controlled the game and were not under any pressure at all, it was totally different. I don't want to use the disallowed goal as an excuse but we knowit would have made a massive difference."

Steven Gerrard's 100th Liverpool goal was chalked off in baffling circumstances after only two minutes.

A free-kick curled into the box flew straight in. Initial suspicions that Gerrard had converted an indirect free-kick were brushed aside, then suggestions that Dirk Kuyt had strayed offside also appeared unfounded, with the Dutchman clearly not interfering.

"Nobody knows why it was disallowed," said Benitez afterwards. "The referee told Carra that he - and not the linesman - disallowed the goal but I don't think he knows why.

With the position the referee was in, how could he disallow it? It was unbelievable and a key decision. It is impossible to explain."

Later on during Benitez's conference, Liverpool's media department conveyed a message from referee Andre Marriner that he had disallowed the goal for offside.

Benitez shrugged in disbelief.

"It was a massive mistake," he added. "But we had plenty of possession, tried from both sides and between the lines, had corners and free-kicks and long shots - but we couldn't score. The players worked really hard.

"I don't know how many attempts we had.

It's difficult to find a solution when you have 25 to 30 chances - you just have to do the same again and may be it will be different next time."

YOUR MAN OF THE MATCH

Arbeloa 16.7%

Skrtel 5.6%

GERRARD 30.6%

Kuyt 11.1%

Alonso 12.5%

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VOCAL: Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez on the touchline against Stoke City
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 22, 2008
Words:400
Previous Article:MISFIRING - AND NO EXCUSES; Liverpool v Stoke match report Reds lacking cutting edge to put Stoke to the sword.
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