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28 Agustus 2008


Rafael Benitez hailed his European lucky charm Dirk Kuyt as Liverpool scrambled their way into the Champions League group stages but lost Steven Gerrard to injury on Wednesday night.
They eventually beat an excellent Standard Liege side 1-0 on the night, and on aggregate, with Kuyt scoring the winner two minutes from the end of extra-time.
Benitez's delight with Kuyt's contribution was tempered by the news that skipper Gerrard will have a groin operation on Thursday and miss both of England's World Cup matches against Andorra and Croatia.
He will also be out of Liverpool's trip to Aston Villa on Sunday, and may miss the home game with Manchester United on September 13.
Liverpool have clearly made a tactical decision to limit Gerrard's loss to the Anfield club by deciding on an operation after last night's game.
England boss Fabio Capello will no doubt be disappointed with that decision, but Liverpool clearly wanted to get the maximum out of Gerrard in the third qualifying round before agreeing to the operation.
Benitez said: "We decided that Steven would play through the pain against Liege and then have the operation. He may not be fit for the Manchester United game, but he certainly will be okay for the first group stage match next month."
Benitez revealed that Gerrard has been playing through constant pain this season.
It was clear that Gerrard was not at his best last night, and he will now go under the knife to make sure he is fit to lead Liverpool into the group stages in September.
"He has a groin problem so he will have an operation and could be out for 10 to 15 days. It is not serious but we need to do it now," Benitez said.
"He has been playing some games in pain, not being 100% fit and we decided that this was the best moment for the operation.
"He had a problem for the first game with Liege, and also when he went away to play for England in their friendly last week against the Czech Republic.
"We talked with the doctor yesterday and today, and it was decided that Steven would play in this match with the pain. But now we will have to get the situation solved."
Of Kuyt's match-winning contribution last night,
Benitez added: "I was delighted with Dirk Kuyt, his goal was a reward for all the effort he puts in for us. He is amazing.
"His work is tremendous, he keeps going right to the end and makes a tremendous contribution to our side."
Liverpool, despite another worrying display, are now in the group stages draw on Thursday in Monaco.
Benitez said: "Obviously there is some relief with the result. We knew it would be a difficult game against a quick, well-organised team.
"The positive was that we played a little better than recently - we want to win trophies but we also understand the need for money."
Liege boss Laszlo Boloni said: "We are very sad after that result. Over two matches we have been the best organised team and we deserved better than to lose like that in the final minutes.
"We have produced a high standard in both matches, and now I hope that can be continued in our league matches and the UEFA Cup.
"I sometimes wondered whether the referee was affected by the fact that we were playing a big team. I felt we should have had a couple of penalties.
"But in the end we created a lot of good situations in both matches and did not make use of them."