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Liverpool FC boss Rafa Benitez still believes in zonal marking

Rafael Benitez

RAFAEL BENITEZ maintains his players still believe in zonal marking despite Liverpool’s continued failure to defend set-pieces costing them the chance of a morale-boosting victory at the weekend.

The Anfield outfit required a goal from substitute Yossi Benayoun to salvage a 2-2 home draw with fellow top-four aspirants Manchester City on Saturday.

After Martin Skrtel prodded Liverpool into the lead shortly after the interval, poor defending allowed Emmanuel Adebayor and then Stephen Ireland to put the visitors ahead.

Adebayor’s goal was a free header from a Craig Bellamy corner, the 12th goal Benitez’s side have conceded from a dead-ball situation this season.

It has led to criticism of Liverpool’s continued use of zonal marking, but while admitting there must be an improvement the Anfield manager has no plans to change his approach.

“When you’re using a zonal marking system you have to attack the ball and if there’s a player near you, you have to challenge,” said Benitez.

“We watched some set-pieces beforehand, and Richard Dunne scored against them when they were using man-to-man. In England, 35% of the goals come from set-pieces.

“But it is clear you have to attack the space or the player, it doesn’t mean you have to stand like a post.

“I think the majority of players believe in it, maybe you can find one or two who don’t. But we were one of the best – THE best – before.

“This year has been bad but it is still early in the season. We will see how things are at the end.

“We were improving at set-pieces, but it’s something we have to keep looking at.”

Liverpool have now won just one of their last 10 games and conceded 27 goals in 19 games in all competitions this season, and stand five points off the Champions League qualification places.

Their defence, disrupted by a calf injury to Glen Johnson before kick-off, was further affected by Daniel Agger being forced off after 11 minutes following a sickening clash of heads with Kolo Toure.

“We have had too many problems with defenders from the first game of the season,” said Benitez. “Like on Saturday, in the morning we thought ‘this is the team’, but then Glen Johnson couldn’t play.

“The understanding between the defenders is vital but it is a question of time.

“We had a shocking day with injuries. Glen was not happy with his calf and he had been limping a bit in training. Then we lose Agger.”

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