Benitez escapes with warning

Liverpool manager avoids a touchline ban for 'offensive' gesture to referee at Spurs
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The Independent Football

Rafael Benitez has been found guilty of misconduct and warned about his future conduct after ridiculing referee Phil Dowd's eyesight following his side's 2-1 defeat to Tottenham on the opening weekend of the season.

The Liverpool manager attended an independent commission held by the Football Association in Manchester yesterday and was told his gesture was "objectively offensive". Benitez had been asked in a post-match press conference at White Hart Lane how he assessed the performance of Dowd, who had turned down two Liverpool appeals for penalties.

The Spaniard responded by reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out his glasses from their case before silently replacing them. Benitez denied misconduct and claimed the gesture had been humourous. The commission however found against him.

The commission took into account Benitez's previous exemplary disciplinary record and decided the appropriate penalty was a warning over his future behaviour, rather than a fine or a touchline ban. Benitez was also cleared over comments after the game when he said: "Everybody could see there was a penalty against [Andrei] Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable. With this referee, I knew another penalty was impossible."

The slap on the wrist for Benitez comes as Sir Alex Ferguson faces censure for saying referee Alan Wiley was not fit enough after Manchester United's recent 2-2 draw with Sunderland. Ferguson is to send a second apology to the FA for the comment in the hope of avoiding a misconduct charge when he returns from a family holiday in the United States. The United manager has until Friday to submit his response after asking for more time to explain his accusation.

Liverpool enter a decisive week after tonight's international matches on the back of successive defeats to Fiorentina in the Champions League and Chelsea in the Premier League. They travel to Sunderland on Saturday, followed by vital games against Champions League Group E leaders Lyons and then Manchester United.

Benitez hopes Steven Gerrard's groin injury picked up on England duty proves nothing serous as £20m summer signing Alberto Aquilani is not yet fit enough to make his debut.

The Italian yesterday revealed how difficult life has been for him since his summer move from Roma. Aquilani said: "It's not been easy. I moved to a new club in a different country and have been unable to play or train properly. When you are not involved in the team it is not a good feeling."