Rafael Benitez was delighted with Monday’s narrow victory against Manchester United, which sees us into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Demba Ba’s fantastic volley was the only goal shortly into the second half, and sets up a Wembley date against Manchester City on April 14.
Benitez made seven changes to the side which lost at Southampton on Saturday, and saw a much improved performance.
On the display
‘It was very important for everyone to win. If not we’re out,’ he said. ‘We worked so hard at Old Trafford and had chances to win the game, and in the end deserved to win. This was a great game and a great victory for us.
‘I am really pleased because the team won, the players did a great job and everyone enjoyed the game.’
On team selection
‘Before the international break we played against United, Steaua and West Ham. We were the best in the world. We lost against Southampton and were the worst in the world but today we won and we’re the best. You have to have balance. We knew it could be like this, we could win or lose, but we have to carry on.
‘The priority is the top four but we have to approach every competition trying to win. We had two games in less than 48 hours so had to manage the squad. We don’t have too many players in some positions and we have to manage. I think we did it really well.
‘We had injuries like Cahill and Ashley Cole today, so you have to approach every game carefully, make substitutions or rotate players and sometimes it will go well, sometimes not so well.
‘We wanted to win against Southampton and use a lot of players, especially when you have another one in less than 48 hours. It’s not playing one game in three days like we have for months, it is two games in less than 48 hours. We can’t kill players playing them two games in a row, because then they get injured and we lose them.
‘Our squad is not too big but we can manage if we don’t have injuries. The problem now is that Cahill will be out for another 15 days at least, and Ashley the same so we have to manage with the other players.
‘The race for the top four will be until the end of the season. We’re in the top four with a game in hand, we’re in a very good position, the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the quarter-finals of the Europa League. I think it’s a great season at the moment.’
On Ba’s goal, and Petr Cech’s outstanding save from Javier Hernandez’s point-blank header
‘This is one of our best best goals this season for sure. It had very good technique and was very good difficult. After West Ham I said Demba is a very good finisher and you could see today.
‘It was an important save and credit to [Petr]. When you have a good goalkeeper it is always healthy and it was a great save.’
On meeting City at Wembley
‘It cannot be more difficult this year. But if you want to win you have to play the best teams. United is one and City is another. It’s another challenge and we will see.’