Benitez cheered by Aquilani debut

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez feels Alberto Aquilani has already shown just what an asset he will prove to be after finally making his long-awaited debut.

The Italian, signed in the summer from Roma for £20million, has been recovering from a broken ankle, but was introduced for the final 15 minutes of last night's 2-1 Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal.

Aquilani saw plenty of the ball during his brief cameo, and could feel somewhat aggrieved not to have been awarded a late penalty when his overhead kick appeared to hit defender Philippe Senderos on the arms.

Even though the Reds were beaten by Nicklas Bendtner's strike at the start of the second half after defender Emiliano Insua had cancelled out Fran Merida's opener, Benitez preferred to reflect on the positives.

"There were a lot of players showing passion, character and quality on the pitch - and Aquilani was one of these player," said the Liverpool manager.

"He has the quality, but he needs to improve his match-fitness.

"You can see he can pass the ball in the final third, he can make a big difference.

"He gets closer every day, but still has to improve his match-fitness. It is a question of time.

"I think that he will be an important player for us.

"We want to push him, but we cannot push too hard as we know that will be a risk.

"So we will keep going, keep working and add more minutes every game."

Like the hosts, Liverpool had made several changes from the team which beat Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, with Dirk Kuyt, captain last night, the only survivor from the starting XI at Anfield.

Benitez maintains momentum has not been lost following the euphoria of victory over their arch rivals.

"It is always very disappointing to be out of any competition, but at least to do it in this way, playing well and with a lot of positives, it is a little bit better than to lose playing badly," he said.

"It was a good performance by the team against a good Arsenal side, and was a good game for the fans."

Striker Fernando Torres could be fit for the trip to Fulham, although captain Steven Gerrard may struggle.

"Both have to keep going. Gerrard is still working with the physio so we will see," Benitez said.

"Hopefully Torres will be okay, but for Gerrard maybe it is more difficult."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border