Benitez backs under-fire Keane

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Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists misfiring striker Robbie Keane will overcome his current crisis in form.

The £20m summer signing was substituted for the 15th time this season as Liverpool were held 0-0 at home by West Ham last night.

They did take over at the top of the Barclays Premier League, but it was anything but convincing and yet another occasion when the Reds have wasted a genuine opportunity to put clear water between themselves and their title rivals.

Keane looked a frustrated figure as he trudged off the Anfield pitch, to be replaced by rookie French striker David Ngog as Liverpool were battling to break down a determined West Ham rearguard.

And Keane's latest withdrawal from the fray by Benitez brought to a head an increasingly worrying situation for the Irishman.

Benitez said: "Robbie is a better player than the one we are seeing now."

Keane has managed just four goals this term, and only completed 90 minutes on three occasions in 22 appearances. He has come on as a substitute four times and been substituted 15 times.

Those statistics underline the problem for Benitez, with Keane struggling for form and confidence.

He is also suffering from the scenario that afflicted Craig Bellamy in his one season at Anfield.

With most teams opting to defend deep and in numbers at Anfield, there is little space for a quick striker to utilise his speed, and in that respect, Bellamy and Keane are very similar.

Benitez said: "We know what kind of player Robbie Keane is. He needs people around him to pass the ball well.

"I believe he will be okay, he will score more if we create chances for him.

"But if that does not happen we have to use players with different qualities to open up the game.

"Robbie does get disappointed when things are not going his way. He is a worker, but he can improve.

"It is a question of confidence. If we score first in this type of game then we will grow and win. Some players may be lacking in confidence, but if we keep creating chances we will be okay.

"Robbie, when he came off, was disappointed. But players always want to be out on the pitch for 90 minutes, but we were thinking of different solutions and Ngog did well when he came on, holding the ball up."

Benitez did his best to remain upbeat, but he knew only too well that two more points had been squandered from a winnable home game, just like Liverpool did against Stoke and Fulham.

He said: "It could have been three more points and top of the league. Clearly we are frustrated, but we are one point clear of Chelsea, and that is positive.

"Hopefully we will not be looking back at these three games, Stoke, Fulham and now West Ham, as points that would have counted. I hope we will look at the end of the season as this point being decisive.

"But we have lost two points again. We know that. But we were attacking and we were playing better than before, but we have to be disappointed."

Defender Jamie Carragher did not shy away from the issue. He said: "It is disappointing when you are not winning your home games because that is always what you want to do.

"But the positive thing is we have had three home games on the run and we have been poor in each one of them, but still qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League and we are top of the league.

"Normally when you are not playing well things go the other way, but in this case we have actually gone up the league which is a positive for us to take.

"We are probably going through a bit of a bad spell at the moment but we are delighted to be top. The performances are not as good as what we are looking for."

He added: "We did quite do enough to win the game, but it is now almost a full year since we were last beaten at home in the league, so it is not that bad.

"Our record at home has been very good over the last 12-18 months but now we have got to start turning these draws into wins."