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Mourinho taunt inspired Reds to Champions League final

Mourinho taunt inspired Reds to Champions League final

Liverpool is on the verge of a sixth European Cup title after reaching its second final in three years. Not bad for a "little club."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had taunted Liverpool as being a great cup team and little else, noting that the Reds failed to challenge for the Premier League title in his three years at Stamford Bridge.
But after Liverpool beat Chelsea on penalty kicks Tuesday at Anfield, captain Steven Gerrard hit back at Mourinho.
"He makes us laugh, but for him to say that we are a little club was a bit disrespectful," Gerrard said. "Two European Cup finals in three years is not bad for a little club is it? It was a bit disrespectful to call us a small team."
Liverpool eliminated Chelsea in the 2005 semifinals before defeating AC Milan on penalty kicks to win its fifth European Cup with goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek the star.
This time, Jose Pepe Reina was between the posts _ and just as hard to beat from the penalty spot.
The 24-year-old Spaniard saved spot kicks from Arjen Robben and Geremi, while Liverpool converted all of its penalties. Dirk Kuyt scored the winning penalty in the 4-1 shootout.
Reina, who stopped seven of nine penalties for Villarreal in 2004-05, also saved three as Liverpool beat West Ham in last season's FA Cup final.
Only Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard and West Ham forward Teddy Sheringham have beaten Reina in penalty shootouts for a trophy while he's been at Liverpool.
"We have the best goalkeeper in the world," Gerrard said. "We saw his penalty saves before he came so we knew all about him."
Reina has struggled to get playing time for Spain, making only five appearances. Real Madrid's Iker Casillas is the No. 1 goalkeeper.
But Reina has a family history in goalkeeping _ his father Miguel also made five Spain appearances and kept goal for Atletico Madrid in the 1974 European Cup final.
Benitez has his players practice penalties at every training session.
"Two or three of the players practice penalties every day," Benitez said. "We had the confidence in the penalty shootout because we have the best goalkeeper in the world.
"You need your keeper in penalty situations as a bonus _ and he was superb. Pepe is always good with penalties and in the final of the FA Cup he was fantastic."
Liverpool has won a record 18 English league titles, but the last one was in 1990, meaning the Reds have never won a Premier League title _ a fact that Benitez is eager to change.
"This is really important for our club and for the future," he said. "We will try to have a bigger impact on the Premiership next season. But the league is so hard, when you see Man United and Chelsea winning every game, you have to be almost perfect."
The closest Liverpool has been in the Premier League was second in 2002. While it finished third last season, the Reds were nine points behind two-time champion Chelsea.
With three rounds left, Manchester United currently leads the Premier League with 85 points. Chelsea is next with 80, followed by Liverpool with 67 and Arsenal with 66.


Updated : 2021-04-17 11:36 GMT+08:00