WIGAN: Rafa Benitez believes Craig Bellamy can inspire Liverpool to new heights after the striker put his off-field problems behind him at Wigan on Saturday.
The Welsh international was in scintillating form against the Latics, three days after he was found not guilty at Cardiff magistrates court of a double assault charge an incident that had been hanging over Bellamy for the previous nine months.
Bellamy scored the opening two goals, laid on a third for Dirk Kuyt and the equally brilliant Steven Gerrard saw his cross turned into his own goal by Lee McCulloch for a fourth as Liverpool won away for the first time this season, ending a wait of over ten hours for an away goal in open play.
I was saying before the game that maybe after the problems he (Bellamy) had, he could be a new player and he was fantastic for us, said Liverpool boss Benitez. He was always creating problems with his pace and for us, having a player with his different qualities, gives us other options.
On Thursday he was in training and shooting and his accuracy was really good, he was always on target, always scoring. I said to him, Keep doing the same and you will score lots of goals.
I think he knew he needed to show people he is a good player and maybe his mind is clear now and its easier for him.
I know its easy now but I was saying this before if you analyse our away games, we were creating 21, 18, 16 chances a game.
The difference now is if you have players who can finish, youll be scoring goals and talking about winning games. Thats a big difference.
The victory moved Liverpool up to fifth in the Premiership table but Benitez believes a testing December could determine what sort of season his team will enjoy.
I dont look at the table too much, he said. We have a very difficult month and we know we have to keep winning. If all players stay fit these next eight or nine games could make a big difference.
Bellamy, who joined Liverpool in a six million pounds transfer from Blackburn this summer, was a relieved man.
I have tried to convince myself that I couldnt lose it overnight and maybe I have put too much pressure on myself, he said.
Signing for Liverpool has been a dream for me and perhaps that has added to it. But I dont want to look for excuses. Sometimes you can have too many excuses and its harder to turn things around.
We needed to win today because our record away from home has not been good enough for a team like Liverpool.
It gets noticed more when youre at a club like this. But I had a similar spell at Blackburn before going on a scoring run and I ended up being player of the year.
Wigan manager Paul Jewell appeared dumbfounded after seeing his team fall to such a demoralising defeat.
At least Ill be watching the cricket tonight, he joked, with reference to the Ashes series in Australia.
Because I wont be sleeping tonight. Were disappointed but well live to fight another day. AFP