Lucas: Reds still in title hunt
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva says his
Anfield team-mates still believe they can win the Premier
The Reds 1-1 draw at Wigan on Wednesday, their ninth in the
League this season, saw them slip down to third place in the
Lucas told BBC Radio Merseyside: "If we don't believe, then
"We believe because we have a good squad and a good manager.
Maybe we have to start taking our chances, but unfortunately
I conceded a penalty."
The Reds had led 1-0 at the JJB Stadium courtesy of a
first-half Yossi Benayoun strike, before Lucas fouled Jason
Koumas to concede a penalty, which Wigan debutant Mido
Rafa Benitez's side have now drawn their last four matches
in all competitions.
Lucas admits his side's recent failure to win has become
"For everybody (it is frustrating), we were maybe two or
three points ahead of the other teams at the end of the
"Things will change if we work hard but of course we know we
are drawing too much and we know we have to win the next
game," said Lucas.
Rafa will never rule
TEAMtalk Editor Simon Wilkes feels
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is far too defensive a manager
to ever lift the Premier League trophy.
Liverpool will not win the Premier League title this season
for one reason only - Rafael Benitez.
The Spaniard appeared to have steered the Reds into a strong
position for a serious challenge to champions Manchester
United's throne following a ruthless 5-1 demolition of
Newcastle at St James' Park in December.
But then came 'Factgate', which saw Benitez launch a
staggering attack on Sir Alex Ferguson, accusing the Red
Devils gaffer of getting away with murder when it came to
Opinion was divided on the Reds chief's outburst, with some
claiming it needed to be said, but it's fair to say everyone
was baffled by the timing of his blast - and it clearly
stumped the Liverpool players, who had previously been
receiving plaudits aplenty for their marauding, goal-laden
Benitez's rant came ahead of a showdown with battling Stoke
at the Britannia Stadium, and a team who had put three past
Bolton and five past the Magpies suddenly looked a shadow of
themselves and were held to a dour 0-0 draw.
Liverpool have recently been boosted by the return to full
fitness of Fernando Torres, but that has barely got a
mention as the spotlight has remained firmly on Benitez
following his shambolic handling of £20million signing
Robbie Keane since his arrival on Merseyside.
Liverpool fans must have been licking their lips at the
prospect of Keane and Torres terrorising top-flight defences
with their pace, verve and skill.
But Irish star Keane, a proven Premier League goal-poacher
who thrives on confidence, has had all his belief drained
from him by his new boss.
The Reds could arguably have their own 'Fantastic Four'
under an attack-minded manager, who would surely try to
integrate Gerrard, Riera, Keane and Torres into the same
team - much in the way Ferguson fields the likes of Rooney,
Tevez, Berbatov and Ronaldo if he has them all fully fit.
With two of the best holding midfielders in world football
on the club's books in Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso,
this is not an outlandish proposal.
But on Wednesday night, Torres played as a lone frontman
with Keane once again twiddling his thumbs on the bench.
This defensive tactic ultimately came home to roost as Steve
Bruce's Latics earned a late penalty, which was coolly
converted by Mido.
That led to the frantic introduction of Keane, for Gerrard
of all people, with six minutes left but it was too little,
too late - and I'm sure a nice bottle of red wine was
winging its way up to the JJB Stadium from Old Trafford.
Liverpool have lost their way at exactly the wrong time,
drawing their last three league games at a time when United
have clicked into top gear and recorded six wins on the
Benitez will argue they're still serious contenders,
especially if they beat second-placed Chelsea at Anfield
But until the Spaniard lets Keane off the leash and realises
attack is the best form of defence in this division, he will
never be crowned King of England.
frustrated as points slip away
By Joe Curran - LFC Official Website
Yossi Benayoun has challenged his
Liverpool teammates to turn around their recent string of
draws by defeating Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.
The Israeli international opened the scoring against Wigan
Athletic on Wednesday with an impressive goal four minutes
before half-time, but Mido struck a late equaliser from the
penalty spot to ensure the Reds of a seventh draw in ten
Benayoun told Liverpoolfc.tv he was happy to get on the
scoresheet for the second time this term and he has every
confidence his teammates have the quality to turn things
"Scoring goals is good on a personal level, but the
important thing is to play well for the team. I was quite
happy with the way I played today, but it obviously wasn't
good enough in the end," he said.
"We have to try to play better and must score the second
goal when we are winning 1-0, but were unable to do that
"We had a lot of creative players on the pitch and we did
our best. Everyone gave 100 per cent against Wigan but
sometimes that is not good enough.
"But football can be like this. They only had one
counter-attack near the end and got a penalty from it. We
should have got a second goal before that to make sure of
"We are very disappointed and expect to win these games, and
we have to start winning games soon - that needs to start on
Sunday with a very important game against Chelsea.
"Every game is important. We have to take three points
against Chelsea just like we should have won against Wigan.
"It's important to take each game as it comes and Chelsea is
the next game at home, so we have to concentrate and do our
best against them.
"I'm sure that we will turn things around and start winning
games soon - that is something we have to do. We definitely
have the quality to do that - we have a lot of big players
like Stevie, Carra and Torres - the next game will be
massive for us."
for a defence of Rafa Benitez
Comment by Tom Kell - Setanta Sports
Does Rafa Benitez enjoy it? Does he crave
the attention? Has he gone mad? Or, more likely, does he
just like to do things his way regardless of what anyone
else thinks? It is an approach which - tiresome but crucial
to point out as it is - that has won him two La Liga titles,
a Uefa Cup and a Champions League....amongst others.
Saying that, taking candy off a baby would be harder than
picking holes in Benitez and Liverpool after yet another
botched job against Wigan on Wednesday.
The substitutions will do for starters.....
Albert Riera for Fernando Torres. Was Torres really that
tired? Is Robbie Keane really that out of vogue? Is Ryan
Babel really who you want ploughing a lone furrow for 20
minutes while protecting a 1-0 lead?
Dirk Kuyt for Yossi Benayoun. Was the night’s goalscorer
that injured? Did Liverpool have to go so defensive that
Benitez removed their most creative threat?
Robbie Keane for Steven Gerrard. Hands up who understood
this one. Anyone? Gerrard was tired according to Benitez. So
tired that Mr Liverpool couldn’t play ten more minutes to
try and drag his team out of the depths for the umpteenth
Oh, and where was Xabi Alonso? Too ‘creative’ to protect a
lead? Was Lucas Leiva really playing that well? No, he was
ponderous as usual.
Then there was The Reds’ approach to the game throughout.
Yes they were disciplined, yes they were solid and yes they
kept their shape. But is that enough? Is that the stuff
champions are made of? Or does there need to be a killer
instinct? Do Liverpool need to add a spot of daring and
ruthlessness to their game? Do they – whisper it quietly –
need to add a bit of Manchester United?
And then there’s Benitez himself...has he lost the plot? Is
it coincidence that his side have drawn four successive
games since his ‘Kevin Keegan’ moment in the sun?
Maybe the pressure is getting to him. Maybe he is too
conservative. Maybe he does need to rid himself of the
selection blind spots that keep costing Liverpool.
Then again, maybe he knows what he’s doing more than anyone
who stands in The Kop every week. Maybe he is in the
privileged position of managing Liverpool Football Club for
a reason. Maybe, just maybe, he’s the best man for the job.
His substitutions are curious, his team selections look like
they’ve been done with a blindfold on and his press
conferences are fast becoming not-to-be-missed events.
But bear with it because one thing you can be sure of with
Senor Benitez is that NOTHING is done on a whim. Absolutely
every decision he makes has meticulous reasoning behind it.
Benitez knows more than most that his side are in the midst
of a marathon, not a sprint. He doesn’t want them choking
midway through like Paula Radcliffe, he wants them fresh and
ready come May. Until that point, it would be sheer folly to
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez admitted his side dropped two
crucial Premier League points after a frustrating 1-1 draw
with Wigan Athletic at the JJB Stadium.
Egyptian striker Mido equalised for the Latics with seven
minutes of the match remaining after Yossi Benayoun put the
Reds ahead just before half-time.
Benitez felt that his side performed much better in the
first half and described the frenetic second half as
"We are very disappointed because we have lost two points,"
said Benitez after the game.
"We were much better in the first half and had control of
the game, but we didn't kill it off, which was the problem.
"I was talking with my players about what to do on the
pitch, but there are always things you cannot control in a
game like this.
"The players were not nervous - they were working hard and
played well in the first half. But things changed in the
"It was a crazy game in the second half, and when it's a
crazy game you cannot control things. Our last three games
have something in common, which I don't like.
"When you are at the top of the table, you know that every
single game is important. You have to be disappointed when
you lose two points, but we have an important game on
Sunday, and if we can play like we played in the first half
then we can beat anyone."
Latics leave it
late to hold Reds
Liverpool's inability to convert
possession into goals returned to haunt them as they
conceded an 81st-minute equaliser to draw 1-1 at Wigan.
For the fourth successive match, Rafael Benitez's side
failed to capitalise on their domination - and had only
Yossi Benayoun's 41st-minute effort to show for their
It proved not to be enough when Brazil midfielder Lucas
Leiva's senseless, rash challenge on Jason Koumas allowed
Mido - signed on loan from Middlesbrough last week - to
convert the penalty.
With Chelsea beating Middlesbrough, Liverpool dropped to
third in the table - two points behind leaders Manchester
United, having played one match more, and only one point
ahead of fourth-placed Aston Villa.
The tone was set in the second minute when Steven Gerrard
curled in a left-wing free-kick to the near post. But Lucas
managed to get in the way of Fernando Torres, and the ball
bounced to safety.
The same combination almost brought a goal in the 13th
minute, Gerrard crossing from the left with Torres' glancing
header beating Pollitt but rebounding back off the far post
- across the goal to safety.
As was the case on Sunday, Liverpool were enjoying huge
amounts of possession - but it was in areas which were not
really threatening to the hosts.
Torres, who had scored once in nine injury-interrupted
matches, was looking sharper - and from a Jamie Carragher
long ball, he controlled on his chest and unleashed a shot
on the turn which was a few feet wide of Pollitt's left-hand
When Liverpool did cut open the defence, Benayoun's final
pass let him down. The Israel international had dummied to
allow Ryan Babel to play the ball in behind - but when he
got to the byline he failed to pick out Torres or Gerrard.
Lucas' 22-yard shot was even worse, scuffing wide after
Gerrard had teed him up with the defence backing off.
Wigan did not win their first corner until the 34th minute -
when the unmarked Emmerson Boyce, clearly offside but with
no flag, headed wide.
The home fans were screaming for a penalty when Paul
Scharner fell under pressure from Aurelio, but referee Phil
Dowd was not interested.
In the 38th minute Babel cut inside and unleashed a shot
which Pollitt failed to hold. But fortunately for him, it
did not drop to an opponent - and the danger was cleared.
Claims for a Martin Skrtel handball, which looked
accidental, a few moments later were waved away by Dowd.
Liverpool promptly went straight down the other end and
scored in the 41st minute.
Javier Mascherano's defence-splitting pass looked to be too
heavy for Benayoun. But he rounded Pollitt and squeezed in a
shot, which clipped the near post from the narrowest of
The first action of the second half saw Maynor Figueroa
booked for bringing down Benayoun. Fabio Aurelio curled the
25-yard free-kick straight at Pollitt.
Wigan's goalkeeper had to be alert to tip over Mascherano's
right-wing cross under his bar, but Liverpool's short-corner
routine broke down.
After a scrappy 15 minutes, Liverpool slipped back into
their patient passing game - by which time Wigan manager
Steve Bruce had seen enough and sent on Jason Koumas for
Daniel de Ridder.
Benayoun should have either made or scored the second in the
65th minute when he turned left-back Figueroa inside out
twice but delayed his final pass from inside the six-yard
box - and the ball was hacked clear.
With 20 minutes to go, Benitez replaced Torres with Albert
Riera - meaning Babel was given the chance to play up front.
Yet there was still no sign of Robbie Keane - back in the
squad after being dropped for Sunday's FA Cup Merseyside
derby - getting a run.
Gerrard had a chance to score the second after bursting into
the right side of the area, but his shot across goal was
wide of the far post.
Benitez's second substitution was to send on Dirk Kuyt for
Benayoun. Bruce responded by giving Colombian striker Huge
Rodallega his debut.
But with nine minutes to go, Lucas crazily clipped Koumas in
the penalty area - and Mido sent Jose Reina the wrong way
from the spot.
Keane was finally given his chance immediately after that
when he replaced Gerrard but could not produce a response to
his manager's decision to leave him out at the weekend.
It could have been much worse for the visitors as Rodallega,
who received international clearance only just over an hour
before kick-off, hit the bar with an injury-time free-kick.