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Houllier can only praise Valencia

Liverpool FC manager Gérard Houllier admitted his side were taught a lesson by Valencia CF.

Liverpool FC manager Gérard Houllier admitted his side were taught a lesson by Valencia CF at Anfield, as a 1-0 win saw the Spanish champions crowned as Group B winners.

Rufete on target
Francisco Rufete scored the only goal of the match on 34 minutes, after a first half where Valencia regularly swept past Liverpool on the wings, and the visitors held on - aided by some fine goalkeeping from stand-in captain Santiago Cañizares - to book their place in the second group stage.

Worthy winners
And Houllier confessed that Valencia had proved worthy winners. "When you lose to a good team you have got to put your hands up and saw 'well done'," Houllier said after the game. "Once they took the lead, I knew it would be difficult, although we had three or four chances."

Cañizares saves
Indeed, despite Valencia's generally solid defending in the absence of usual back-line linchpin and regular captain Roberto Ayala though suspension, Liverpool did have several good opportunities, Michael Owen denied by diving Cañizares saves either side of half-time from similarly angled shots, and Curro Torres clearing a Dietmar Hamann header off the line ten minutes after the break.

'We had chances'
Houllier knew that they had to convert those efforts. "When you play a good team, you have to pick up your chances," he said. "We had chances to come back and equalise."

Right-wing pair magnificent
No doubt, though, that Valencia proved a good team. Rufete and Curro Torres were magnificent on their right wing, with John Carew and Pablo Aimar, returning to the starting lineup up front, a typical handful.

Flowing forward thrust
And it was Rufete, Curro Torres and Carew who combined to create the goal, an excellent flowing forward thrust to cap Valencia's first-half dominance, based, as always, on patient, but accelerating, passing moves. In the second half, they withdrew to defend their lead - having only needed a draw to clinch the group - but still frequently threatened on the break, notably through Rubén Baraja and substitute Miguel Angulo.

'In control'
"When you look at the game overall we were mostly in control," Valencia coach Rafael Benítez said. "I was pleased with the way my players dealt with Liverpool's pressing style."

Basel decider
A win at FC Basel would still send the English Premiership leaders through, but with the Swiss champions having already held both Liverpool and Valencia, that is easier said than done - though Liverpool will only need a draw themselves if their Matchday Six opponents do not get three points at FC Spartak Moskva in Tuesday's rearranged game. "Liverpool will not find it easy in Basel," Benítez warned, "It will be a passionate affair."

'Time will teach us'
But Houllier believes that their experience in losing twice to such an accomplished side could do his team good. "Time will teach us that sort of flowing composure that Valencia have," he said. "I think this type of game will help us for the future."