After The Match 


Liverpool-Reading 1-2aet (1-0)   13.1.10  FA Cup (3. r - replay)
Goals: Bertrand (45 og)     Sigurdsson (90 pen), Long (100)
Team: Cavalieri, Degen, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Aquilani, Lucas, Benayoun, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Ngog (Torres 29), Babel (Gerrard 46), Skrtel (Degen 91)
Not used: Aurelio, Spearing, Gulacsi, Pacheco
Yellow: Degen (53)        
Karacan (4), Mills (45), Ingimarsson (102), Gunnarsson (118)
Red: None
Attendance: 31,063
Shots on target: 4-6
Shots off target: 7-6
Blocked shots: 6-2
Fouls conceded: 18-15
Corners: 9-2
Offsides: 3-4
Possession: 65.7-34.3
Yellow: 1-4

HEADLINES  "I don't think to get rid of Rafa now is the answer."
John Aldridge
1501: Liverpool FC is a club in crisis
1401: Torres out for six weeks
          - Gerrard out for two

1401: Belt up for Raf ride
1401: Carragher says sorry
1401: Liverpool FC in chaos both on and off the pitch
1401: McAteer: Reds running out of answers
1401: Benitez vows to fight on at Liverpool
1301: Reds flushed by Royals

Liverpool FC is a club in crisis

Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

They say that a fish rots from the head down – and the fishy stench emanating from Anfield at present is overpowering. Out of the Champions League. Out of the FA Cup. Out of the Carling Cup. Their best two players now out of action.

How much longer before Rafael Benitez is out of a job?

The likelihood is, not any time soon.

And that highlights the insurmountable problems faced by Liverpool Football Club.

Not because I believe the time has come to change managers at Anfield.

For what it’s worth I still believe Benitez has the managerial talent, acumen and most importantly appetite to turn things around.

But alarmingly the custodians of Liverpool Football Club lack the focus and the single-minded strength of purpose to make such an onerous decision, even if the desire existed for such a change.

Liverpool is pulling in several different directions – and has been for years – that’s not a sign of a healthy football club.

The absentee landlords aren’t talking to each other, unless it’s for a media soundbite to pretend they’re still best of pals.

They employ a manager who knows they tried – and failed – to replace him two years ago.

By way of apology – and a sop to the fans – he was handed a five year contract, but they then ran out of money to support him.

And they’ve just appointed a new Managing Director with an admirable pedigree, who finds himself stuck in the middle of the whole holy mess.

That lack of focus has now seeped onto the pitch.

Liverpool don’t, and haven’t looked, like a team with any kind of sense of direction for weeks.

Not since the closing weeks of last season, in fact.

The Reds need leaders, on and off the pitch.

But everywhere you look are men fudging responsibility.

I exclude the admirable Jamie Carragher from that criticism.

Whatever you think of his performances this season, he demanded responsibility on the pitch on Wednesday – and had the balls to come out and apologise for the debacle afterwards. But too many men are too happy to deflect attention from their own misdemeanours.

“There were a lot of things out there I did not like” said Benitez afterwards.

Happily he chose not to develop the theme.

Because if the 31,000 or so faithful – a worrying statistic in itself – who turned up on the night had chosen to express what they didn’t like, we’d still be listening now.

It wasn’t any match official’s fault that Liverpool went out of the FA Cup on Wednesday, just as it wasn’t any referee’s fault that Spurs, Aston Villa, Lyon, Fiorentina, Arsenal, Chelsea, Portsmouth and Fulham (actually, I’ll give you that last one) turned Liverpool over this season.

There are problems everywhere you look.

Emiliano Insua is a once promising youngster who desperately needs a break and an injection of confidence.

Lucas doesn’t look like he will ever develop into the polished playmaker his manager clearly believes he can become.

Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard have been over-relied upon and over-played through injury, until they broke.

An alarming lack of creativity will never be addressed with Dirk Kuyt and Fabio Aurelio in the wide positions.

While Alberto Aquilani, let’s be kind, looks like he needs at least a settling in season to adjust to the unique rigours of the Premier League.

Make no mistake, Liverpool is a club in the midst of a crisis.

“January is a poor quality market” wrote Hicks, in a poor quality attempt to explain why the club wasn’t spending any money in the transfer window.

But this is a poor quality Liverpool side, and if it doesn’t qualify for next season’s Champions League the poverty of Liverpool’s squad would become even more extreme.

Factor in another gruelling schedule for Liverpool’s most influential performers – World Cup summers for Gerrard, Torres, Johnson, Reina, Mascherano and Aquilani – and the long-term outlook is as bleak as the short term prognosis.

The faithful fans, often mocked for the depth of their loyalty, know it.

Don’t confuse loyalty for stupidity. The reaction of those supporters on the final whistle on Wednesday showed that their patience is running dry.

If you look hard there is scant consolation.

When all the balls fall into place, there is still a decent side struggling to get out.

You don’t win at Villa Park, win at the home of your neighbours and defeat the reigning champions – even if this season’s Manchester United is a paler version than last – without possessing some quality.

But the bar has been set very high at Anfield, and the lack of consistency displayed all season has been appalling.

The only men who can change that are the 11 who cross the white line – at Stoke City tomorrow and against Spurs on Wednesday.

Rarely have two fixtures carried such significance for Liverpool in recent times.

Victory, and Rafa Benitez can breathe out – for now.

Even more misery and it really is time for him to look over his shoulder.

Torres out for six weeks
- Gerrard out for two

Daily Post

Under-pressure Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez today suffered another setback after Fernando Torres was ruled out for six weeks.

The Spanish striker - who lasted just 29 minutes of the Reds' disastrous FA Cup third round replay defeat to Reading last night - requires knee surgery after scans revealed torn cartilage.

Steven Gerrard, who was also forced off with injury, will be out for a fortnight with a hamstring strain while Yossi Benayoun could face a month on the sidelines with a broken rib.

A club spokesman said: "Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both underwent scans earlier today after coming off in the FA Cup tie against Reading.

"Steven has a hamstring strain and will be out for a fortnight, while Fernando has torn a cartilage in his right knee. The injury will require surgery and he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.

"Yossi Benayoun also suffered a fractured rib in the game and will be unavailable for between three and four weeks."

Belt up for Raf ride

Sky Sports

Liverpool must keep faith with Rafa Benitez in the hope of winning the Europa League or finishing fourth in the Premier League.

So say former Reds players John Aldridge and Jason McAteer despite Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Championship side Reading in the FA Cup third round.

Wednesday's loss marked a new low for Benitez, whose side is not only out of both domestic cup competitions but has failed to qualify for the later stages of the Champions League for the first time in six years and sits only seventh in the Premier League.

However, McAteer doesn't believe that Benitez should shoulder all of the blame for his team's failings.

"We seem to have become a bit fragile at Anfield," he told Sky Sports News.

"People are blaming Rafa Benitez and a few of the signings but the team hasn't really changed a lot from last season.

"Yes, [Alvaro] Arbeloa and [Xabi] Alonso have gone but [Glen] Johnson's come in and [Alberto] Aquilani has been injured but is starting to get into the team and they are two quality players.

"I don't think you can blame Rafa Benitez totally; last night's performance was very disappointing from the fact there was a lack of passion shown but that comes from the players, not the manager.

"He doesn't have the purse you might think he has. He doesn't have the funds to go into the market and spend £20m-30m-40m on a top-class international, finished player.

"He buys players that have shown a lot of potential but a player then has to fulfil it and Lucas and [Ryan] Babel haven't done it.

"If Rafa Benitez was to go, who is going to come in with the budget restrictions? It is going to be very, very difficult for a top-class manager, which is what Liverpool deserve, to come in and do anything with the budget Liverpool have got."

Aldridge also pointed the finger of blame at the squad, highlighting a lack of consistency and quality in the performances of the players this season.

"Rafa's under immense pressure; I think every manager in football is at the moment, such is the way that it's gone over the years.

"At the end of the day once they go over that white line it's up to the players; a number of the players have lost form dramatically," he said. "That word self-belief is big in football; you've got to believe in what you are doing and have confidence and that's been totally void.

"Four or five times in the last few months Liverpool have thought they've turned the corner only to be beaten down the lines after a couple of games; there's no consistency whatsoever.

"Rafa says he is working his hardest, working his best with the players but we've got to see some results. Maybe Rafa has confidence within himself because the team has lost confidence and belief. It's there for everyone to see on the pitch.

"We are not scoring as many goals as we should be and we are conceding a lot more than we have been doing. There is perhaps a lack of togetherness on the pitch if anything."

Despite those problems, Aldridge says Liverpool should stand by the man who guided the club to the Champions League title at the end of his first season in charge.

"All managers are under pressure," he said. "Rafa's got confidence in his own ability, if he didn't I'm sure he'd walk away for the situation to help the club.

"Hopefully he can turn the tide. I don't think to get rid of Rafa now is the answer. I think he has got to do the best he can with the team until May, hopefully we can secure fourth place and who knows, win the Europa Cup.

"At this point in time it seems a long way away but that's what we hope and strive for and let's hope Rafa can do that."

Carragher says sorry

Football 365

Jamie Carragher has apologised to Liverpool fans after their embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading.

The club's vice-captain admits that the Reds' performance against the Championship strugglers was "not acceptable".

They led 1-0 via an own goal but conceded a late penalty and then an extra-time goal to crash out of the competition.

"It was a very bad night for Liverpool and we can't disguise that - we had to do more against a side from a lower league," Carragher told the Liverpool Echo.

"We have to apologise for the way we performed. We have to give credit to Reading, hold our hands up. We all like to win but when you don't, you have to be a good loser.

"We have to accept they deserved it. But, at the same time, we have got to look at ourselves and the way we performed was not acceptable.

"We've got a massive game coming up against Stoke now. It will be very tough, as we played extra time and we have got to show enormous character to come back.

"But that's what we have got to do. We have got to move on but, at the same time, we have to say sorry to the fans who came to Anfield and all those watching on TV."

Liverpool FC in chaos
both on and off the pitch

Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo

It seemed like business as usual for Rafa Benitez last night. But this has been an unusual week.

The Liverpool manager remained composed and unflustered as he answered some pressing questions about his team’s FA Cup exit to Championship strugglers Reading.

“We have to improve defensively but we also have to take our chances,” he said.

Of course, we’ve heard it before this season as Liverpool have lurched from one problem to another.

At least the headlines might be dominated by events on the pitch again.

The 2-1 defeat completed a couple of miserable days when, not for the first time in recent years at Anfield, football has taken a back seat.

In what should have been an uneventful build-up to the third round replay it was off the field matters that caused the club further embarrassment.

Following the postponement of Saturday’s league game with Tottenham, it should have been a slow news week.

Instead, in the time it takes to send an e-mail, all hell broke loose.

Liverpool’s decision not to hold a pre-match press conference ahead of last night’s match seemed wiser with each trans-Atlantic digital exchange.

That decision had been taken long before Tom Hicks Jnr decided to log on to check his inbox in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Coincidentally, it also prevented Benitez having to field further questions about matters that really shouldn’t concern him.

Just like Yossi Benayoun’s injury time trip on Shane Long for the penalty that forced the tie into extra-time, the presence of last night’s game appeared on the fixture list like a hangover that’s been lingering since New Year’s Day.

But even the fact Liverpool now have just the Europa League and fourth place to play for bears little comparison to the headache being addressed at Boardroom level as a result of the now notorious message sent to a fan by Hicks Jnr.

The pen may be mightier than the sword but the e-mail has produced a whole new ball game this week, and it was that on which Hicks Jnr impaled himself in an act of professional suicide that ranks alongside Gerald Ratner’s ‘total crap’ gaffe.

With a knee-jerk apology for what he described as a ‘knee jerk reaction’ he said: “I have great respect for Liverpool Football Club, especially the clubs supporters.”

It was a strange way of showing it.

Of course, we don’t know what, if any, provocation Hicks Jnr was faced with before hitting the detonator marked ‘sent’ on his short-lived Anfield director career.

Either way, someone in his now former position should know better. But, then, this is the same Tom Hicks Jnr who breezed into the Sandon surrounded by bodyguards and then wondered why he wasn’t welcome.

His consequent resignation from the board of directors and parent company Kop Holdings was roundly welcomed by supporters on Monday.

More negative publicity surrounding the club wasn’t however.

In offering his 'sincerest apologies' Hicks Jnr is said to be mortified by the whole sorry affair. Whether his feelings bear comparison to the emotions of Liverpool fans every time the club's dirty linen is washed in public is another matter.

One thing is for sure though. While uncertainty reigns over the club's future, Tom Jnr will get over it.

If any good has come from the latest episode at Anfield it’s that it has forced those in the corridors of power to put their heads above the parapet to try and alleviate the damage.

First we heard Tom Hicks Snr pledging the club will spend big in the summer and that the new stadium will be the ‘game changer’ for Liverpool.

Charm offensive; PR exercise, call it what you want, but while the noises coming from Hicks Snr will be treated with justified suspicion, the words of managing director Christian Purslow made for better reading.

According to Purslow, while the club has no intention of selling key players such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, Liverpool could have new investors within the next few months.

The latter suggests that Hicks and Gillett's stranglehold on the club could at worst be diluted and at best dissolved.

It is thought the co-owners are only interested in the first option for now, with Purslow said to have been sounding out a list of potential investors interested in taking an equity stake in the club.

That could attract the kind of funds to substantiate Hicks Snr’s ‘big summer window’ comments while appearing as a step in the right direction for those willing the club’s owners to follow Hicks Jnr through the exit door.

McAteer: Reds running out of answers

The Irish Independet/PA Sport

Former Liverpool midfielder Jason McAteer admits the Reds can have no excuses for their latest embarrassing result.

Manager Rafael Benitez's troubled campaign took another turn for the worse as his side were bundled out of the FA Cup by Championship strugglers Reading on Wednesday night. The Royals did need a late penalty to level the third-round replay at Anfield but went on to secure a deserved 2-1 victory with a Shane Long goal in extra time.

The result increases the pressure on Benitez with his side already out of the Champions League and seventh in the Barclays Premier League. McAteer told LFC TV: "Sometimes you just can't defend that kind of performance. It was poor."

He added: "Liverpool just didn't really create anything and to be fair the better team won on the night."

Liverpool were weakened by the absences of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for the majority of the game after the key pair were both forced off with injury.

McAteer now has serious concerns for the team should their talismanic captain and star striker face time out.

He said: "They are the two players who can create something out of absolutely nothing, they can produce a bit of magic.

"You just look around the team and when those two are not there, who is going to create that bit of magic? Where is that bit of leadership and quality?"

He added: "They seem really vulnerable all the time. The back four are very fragile.

"Teams are coming, and even when they're going 1-0 down, they know they are going to get a chance to score and possibly go on to win the game."

Benitez vows to fight on at Liverpool

BBC Sport Online

Under-pressure Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has vowed to fight on, despite seeing his side exit the FA Cup at the hands of Championship outfit Reading.

The Reds squandered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 after extra time in their third-round replay with the Royals.

Liverpool are already out of the Champions League and are 12 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

"Everybody has been talking about me but I'll keep working hard with my team," Benitez told the club's website.

"From the beginning of the season we have been a little bit frustrated but we have to carry on. When you are in the race you need to keep going.

"We are not in the competition [FA Cup] any more. If the critics are fair, then it's OK but it's been the same for three months."

The defeat was Liverpool's 12th of the season and leaves them facing the very real likelihood of finishing the campaign without a trophy for the fourth successive season, although they are still in contention in the Europa League.

The Reds produced another below-par performance and were deservedly beaten by a committed Reading side.

An own goal from Ryan Bertrand had given Liverpool the lead but an injury-time penalty from Gylfi Sigurdsson and an extra-time header from Shane Long turned the game in Reading's favour.

"It was difficult to take as we were in the 92nd minute and winning the game. Everything then changed," added Benitez, who was also hit by the news that striker Fernando Torres and midfielder Steven Gerrard require scans on the respective knee and hamstring injuries they suffered against the Royals.

"We started the second half better with more control of the game but after this we were making some mistakes and they had chances.

"We played a strong team and we tried to win the game. Sometimes you don't play as well as you can and sometimes the other team plays well."

But former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson, who was co-commentating for BBC Radio 5 live at Wednesday's game, was dismayed by the club's latest defeat.

"It can't go on for much longer," said Lawrenson.

"They are still in the Europa League and that will be one argument but the bigger argument has been that there hasn't been any improvement in performance.

"You can talk about the 2-0 win over Manchester United or the first half against Arsenal but, in general, to say it has been average is being generous.

"Five or six of those players are, quite frankly, not good enough. Fourth place and Champions League qualification, looks a million miles away."

Reds flushed by Royals

Sky Sports

Shane Long's extra-time goal gave Reading a deserved 2-1 victory over Liverpool in their FA Cup third-round replay at Anfield.

Gylfi Sigurdsson's injury-time penalty forced the game into extra-time to cancel out Ryan Bertrand's unfortunate own goal on the stroke of half-time.

Long came off the bench to win the penalty after being kicked by Yossi Benayoun inside the box and Sigurdsson coolly slotted the ball past Diego Cavalieri, sending the reserve goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.

Reading grabbed the winner 10 minutes into the first period of extra-time when Brynjar Gunnarsson skipped past Benayoun and nutmegged Emiliano Insua before sending a cross over for Long to head home from six yards.

To make matters worse on a miserable night for Rafa Benitez he saw star duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard forced off with knocks.

The Royals were quick to make their presence felt with some uncompromising tackling. Matthew Mills got away with a warning for clattering into Torres, before Jem Karacan was booked for flattening Gerrard in the first four minutes.

And although Liverpool had the majority of the early possession, Cavalieri had to make a fine save from Sigurdsson's free-kick, then a shot on the turn from Simon Church.

Dirk Kuyt needed treatment following a fierce challenge by Bertrand, before Reading should have taken the lead after 22 minutes when Church's cross was allowed to reach the far post - where Grzegorz Rasiak missed the target from three yards.

Problems worsened
Liverpool's problems worsened after 29 minutes when Torres went off, replaced by David Ngog. The Spanish international had never really recovered from that early bodycheck from Mills and headed straight down the tunnel with Liverpool doctor, Mark Waller, for treatment seemingly to a knee injury.

The home side, at best, were aimless, but did manage to put together a 40th-minute move which almost bore fruit. Philipp Degen's strong angled run to the edge of the box produced a pass for Benayoun, who curled a shot narrowly wide.

Mills was booked for a foul on Benayoun before Liverpool grabbed a fortunate lead when Gerrard's angled shot clipped Bertrand and deceived Adam Federici at the near post.

Liverpool's troubles worsened when Gerrard failed to appear after the break, Ryan Babel coming on to join Ngog up front. The Liverpool skipper was believed to have suffered a hamstring strain.

With both talismen off the pitch and injured, it was left to Liverpool's supporting cast to get through this tie.

Degen was booked for diving by referee Phil Dowd, having fallen in the box but without a hint of an appeal.

Liverpool's response to their adversity was surprisingly positive, and they pinned Reading back, with the visitors bringing on midfielder Brian Howard for Kalifa Cisse on the hour.

Next on for Reading was Jimmy Kebe for Rasiak five minutes later - and someone they were still ahead after 80 minutes when McAnuff ran 60-yards right through Liverpool's defence before sidefooting wide from 12 yards with only Cavalieri to beat.

Reading continued to press for an equaliser, and Church sent a free header over the bar from 10 yards with five minutes left.

But Reading got their reward when Benayoun was adjudged to have clipped Long's heels, and Sigurdsson stepped up to fire home the penalty which took the tie into extra-time.

Emiliano Insua's run created a chance for Babel to force Federici into a low save, but it was still Reading looking the more confident.

And they stunned the Kop by taking the lead after 100 minutes. Gunnarsson pushed the ball between Insua's legs on the right and crossed for Long to head home from close range.

Liverpool tried to respond, but even when Benayoun was clear, he could only manage a weak shot that Federici saved with his legs.

The second period of extra-time saw Liverpool struggle desperately to save themselves. But their nervous play was riddled with mistakes and terrible passing.

Jamie Carragher, Babel and Ngog all had shots which failed to trouble Federici, and Reading more than deserved their victory.

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