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Dudek: Post Istanbul axe hard to take


Jul 21 2007


by Chris Beesley, Liverpool Daily Post



FORMER Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek admitted that life at Anfield was never going to be the same for him after Rafael Benitez axed him despite his Champions League heroics.


While his former team-mates were defeating French side Auxerre 2-0 in Switzerland yesterday thanks to goals from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, Polish international Dudek, was being officially revealed as a Real Madrid player.


Dudek, 34, was Liverpool’s penalty shoot-out hero in the Champions League final in Istanbul where his spot-kick saves against Milan handed the club their fifth European Cup triumph.


However, his ‘reward’ for completing arguably the most spectacular comeback victory in a major football final was to be instantly benched the following season as Benitez brought in fellow Spaniard Pepe Reina as his new number one.


Dudek said: “It’s hard to accept the coach’s decision of benching you after you play the best game of your life.


“I have been a positive and very professional player throughout my career.


“I was very professional during my last 18 months at Liverpool. I hope everyone was happy with my behaviour.


“It is always difficult for a player not to play, but I was never ashamed of being second to Reina.


“Pepe was a very good keeper. I never thought to myself ‘Why am I on the bench? I’m better than Pepe. It was never like that at all. Reina performed very well in every game in England and I think he deserved it. He may have been the type of keeper Benitez wanted.”


Dudek revealed that the decision to join Real Madrid – where he is expected to be understudy to Spanish number one Iker Casillas – was always an easy one, considering the advice he was given by Liverpool’s Spanish connection.


He said: “To be honest, it was a very easy decision to make because all the Spanish friends I made in Liverpool told me I couldn’t refuse joining Real Madrid. I was very happy with the fact that people here wanted me.


“When I heard Real Madrid was interested in me I went straight to talk to Liverpool’s goalkeeping coach, Jose Manuel Ochotorena, who used to play for Real Madrid and was born here.


“He knows a lot about the club. He told me: ‘Jerzy don’t wait. It is fantastic club to play for. I know you can do it.’”


Meanwhile, Benitez has praised the unlikely second-half star of Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Auxerre.


Moroccan youngster Nabil El Zhar impressed his manager during the final half an hour and Benitez was pleased with how the midfielder brought was a drab encounter into life.


He said: “It was a strange game in many ways because we didn’t play to our normal level yet we managed to score two good goals, we have no injury problems and we kept a clean sheet, which is always good.


“I thought El Zhar did a good job when he came on in the second half. Nabil is a player with pace and ability who wants to do well.


“He gave us fresh legs and I told him to try and change the game for us because everyone was feeling tired. I told him to try different things and try to score.”

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