Benitez seeks a fresh start after Liverpool’s sorry exit

Steven Gerrard

A ‘new season’ beckons for the Reds with Aquilani and Torres back and youngsters emerging

BY Jonathan Harwood LAST UPDATED AT 09:37 ON Thu 10 Dec 2009

Liverpool 1 Fiorentina 2. Liverpool's woeful Champions League campaign ended on a low at Anfield as the Reds were sunk by an injury time Fiorentina winner.

The positives that Rafa Benitez would have hoped to have taken from the evening were eclipsed when Alberto Gilardino struck in the 93rd minute to hand the Italians victory.

Instead the Reds boss was left to ponder how his side had thrown away a lead, conceded at the death and, as a result, lost two consecutive European games at Anfield for the first time.

He was honest enough to admit that the result was a neat encapsulation of his side's doomed campaign. But with the Champions League behind them Benitez must now concentrate on the league.

"It is the beginning of a new season for us now, I hope," said Benitez.

That season starts with the visit of Arsenal at the weekend. The game could be crucial to Liverpool's chances of getting back into the Champions League next season, which is now their main goal.

Yossi Benayoun headed the Reds in front against Fiorentina when he met Steven Gerrard's first-half free-kick. But Martin Jorgensen levelled with a low shot and Gilardino turned in Juan Vargos' cross in injury time.

However, it was not all doom and gloom prior to Fiorentina's second goal. Liverpool's £20m summer signing Alberto Aquilani made his first start in midfield  and acquitted himself ably. Fernando Torres returned from five weeks out with a hernia, coming on as a second half sub.

And while Arsenal's tots were strutting their stuff in Athens Benitez also gave two promising youngsters of his own a run out. Spaniard Daniel Pacheco came on as a late replacement for Aquilani and former reserve team captain Stephen Darby was given his first start. · 

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