Rafa concedes title is fading

Image: Benitez: Fading title hopes

Rafa Benitez concedes that Liverpool's chances of winning the Premier League have decreased.

Spaniard blames missed chances at The Riverside

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez concedes that his side's chances of winning the Premier League have decreased following Saturday's defeat at Middlesbrough. The Reds were sunk at The Riverside as a first-half own goal from Xabi Alonso and a second-half Tuncay Sanli strike handed Boro their first Premier League win since 9th November. As a result of the defeat, Liverpool continue to trail leaders Manchester United by seven points, having played a game more than the defending champions, and have slipped to third behind Chelsea. And Benitez - whose future at Anfield is in doubt as he continues to negotiate a new contract - recognises that his squad face an increasingly testing challenge in their bid to secure a first league title since 1990. When asked about Liverpool's chances of overhauling United, the Spaniard told Sky Sports: "Before the game it was very difficult, now it is more difficult."

Shortcomings

And, after seeing Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel and Nabil El Zhar waste opportunities in the opening half-hour on Teesside, Benitez is in no doubt about where the shortcomings exist. Benitez - who controversially sold Robbie Keane back to Tottenham in the winter transfer window six months after signing the striker - was missing Fernando Torres through injury in the North East and admits his team lacked a cutting edge. Spain star Torres has been absent for a number of games this term due to fitness setbacks and Benitez confesses a lack of goals has been a problem in 2008/09. "Clearly you have to take your chances if you want to win these games," added the former Valencia chief. "In the first 30 minutes we had five chances and we did not score a goal. "Clearly it has been a problem this season, and today it was the same." Meanwhile, Benitez has confirmed that his representatives are attempting to arrange negotiations with the club's hierarchy as attempts are made to reach common ground over a new contract. He said: "My advisers are in contact with the advisers of the owners, so maybe they will have a conversation and we will see if we can progress."

Around Sky