Benitez blasts his team
Disappointed Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has warned
his players to start learning some harsh lessons
otherwise they can forget about landing a Champions
League berth next season.
Just five days after their thrilling win over Juventus,
the Reds looked likely to collect a point from their
below-par display at Manchester City until Kiki
Musampa's last-minute winner gave the Blues a deserved
Benitez lambasted his team's failure not to kill the
game in the latter stages as they gifted Bradley
Wright-Phillips possession at a throw-in close to the
Wright-Phillips ferried the ball on to fellow substitute
Lee Croft, whose cross provided Musampa with the
opportunity to strike.
"I am very disappointed," said Benitez. "Sometimes, when
you cannot win, a draw is a good result. We were in the
last minute, we had a throw-in, then we give the ball
away, they counter and we end up losing a goal.
"It is more important for us to finish fourth in the
Premiership than it is to do well in the Champions
"If we play to the level we can, we can still get there
but if we do not improve on the mental approach we had
today, it will be difficult for us."
The 1-0 defeat that keeps Liverpool a point adrift of
Everton in the battle for fourth spot, with their
Merseyside rivals set to take a decisive advantage if
they can turn Crystal Palace over at Goodison Park
Anything other than a home win would have been tough
luck on Pearce, who has watched City concede late goals
in his two previous games in charge since succeeding
With Steven Gerrard, whose future Benitez refused to
discuss, in subdued mood, Joey Barton dominated the
midfield exchanges and had Musampa not crashed a volley
against the post midway through the second period, the
Blues would have already been in front before the
Dutchman's crucial strike.
"It is poetic justice after what has happened in the
last two weeks," said Pearce, who denied reports he has
already been appointed Keegan's permanent successor.
"Liverpool are a big scalp. They are on a good run of
form. I watched them in midweek and they played Juventus
off the park.
"But I have not got the job yet. The chairman has taken
a big gamble putting an amateur in charge but hopefully
I will prove to him I am up to the task."
Pearce did need the big hand of goalkeeping coach Tim
Flowers to save him from potential embarrassment as he
headed straight down the tunnel at the final whistle
before even attempting to shake hands with Benitez.
"I was always like that as a player," he said.
"I never shook hands with anyone, I was always straight
off the pitch. Thankfully Tim Flowers has got big claws
and managed to pull me back. I apologise if Mr Benitez
felt there was ignoring him. I just got carried away
with the moment."
Flowers' task will not be as hard as the one Benitez now
faces lifting Liverpool for Wednesday's vital trip to
Aside from the emotion generated by the visit, the
Anfield outfit must also defend their slender first-leg
advantage and the Spanish coach knows his team will have
to do far better than they did today.
"Our inconsistency is difficult to explain," he
"At one point we are playing good football and winning,
the next we find it really difficult.
"But I don't think there will be a problem raising the
team for Wednesday. Champions League games are different
- we will be ready."
Musapa strike stuns Reds
BBC Sport Online
Kiki Musampa's spectacular late volley gave Stuart
Pearce his first win as Manchester City boss.
Musampa who had earlier hit the post, met Lee Croft's
cross on the edge of the area and his low first-time
effort flew past Scott Carson into the net.
Liverpool's best effort came from a skidding Igor Biscan
shot which David James kept out - and the City keeper
was otherwise untroubled.
The defeat means Liverpool failed to move above Everton
into fourth place.
City boss Stuart Pearce was given a standing ovation
before the game, as the fans showed he has their support
to get the job on a long-term basis.
This victory will help his cause, and it was an
encouraging display all-round from the home side.
Their best early chance came from a Joey Barton
free-kick after Steve Finnan was bizarrely penalised for
pulling Musampa's dreadlocked hair.
Barton's curling delivery from the left was met by
Distin's header but Carson produced an excellent reflex
save to keep the ball out.
Liverpool were unable to reproduce the passion they
showed while beating Juventus in midweek and had only
one effort of note in the first-half.
Paul Bosvelt gave the ball away to Igor Biscan and
although James parried his low shot, he had to use his
feet to hack the ball clear of the onrushing Anthony Le
City were not creating much themselves but should still
have been in front at the break.
Robbie Fowler, celebrating his 30th birthday, flicked a
delightful ball through to set up Antoine Sibierski but
Carson did well to block with his legs.
The game got bogged down in midfield after the break and
there was little in the way of goalmouth action.
There was still the occasional opening however, and
Musampa deserved better with his effort on 65 minutes.
A flowing move down the right ended when Onuoha's cross
was met with a full-blooded left-foot volley that
thumped against Carson's post.
But Musampa was to get his reward for an impressive
dispay in injury time.
Substitute Croft sent in a low cross and the Dutch
winger stretched to steer the ball past Carson for his
first goal for City.