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Rafa is the toast of Liverpool
by Paul Kennedy, November 29th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  england, uefa champions league


[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Liverpool fans showed which side they are on in the very public feud between Reds manager Rafael Benitez and the club's American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Fans marched Wednesday in support of Benitez to Anfield, where they chanted his name during the Reds' critical UEFA Champions League game against Porto and were rewarded with a 4-1 win.

Spaniard Fernando Torres, Benitez's $40 million signing over the summer, scored twice, broke the game open with the winning goal in the 78th minute.

The win kept Liverpool, the 2007 Champions League runner-up, in contention for a berth in the second stage, but it has to beat Marseille in France in two weeks to advance.

A loss to Porto might have led to a managerial change. Benitez, outspoken in his criticism of Liverpool's American owners, was more diplomatic after the Porto game than he had been after Liverpool's 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday.

"I have heard things said about it being my ego," he said. "But it is not about my ego, it's about my responsibility. And I don't think this game has made my position any weaker or stronger. I'm in the same position and have the same ideas as I had before."

Benitez downplayed his differences with his owners, whom he will meet in mid-December after the end of the group stage of the Champions League to decide whether to plunge into the January transfer market.

"I don't have any personal problems with the owners George Gillett or Tom Hicks," Benitez said. "We need to talk about the future and we will see what happens. I have been trying to look after my team and I need to do that because it is my responsibility. It would be easy not to say anything and take my wages at the end of the month, but it is my club and my responsibility."

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