After The Match 


Wigan-Liverpool 1-1 (0-1)            28.1.09                           PL
Goals: Benayoun (41)       Mido (83 pen)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Benayoun, Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Kuyt (Benayoun 75), Riera (Torres 72), Keane (Gerrard 84)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Alonso
Yellow: Figueroa (51)
Red: None
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 21,237
Shots on target: 2-3
Shots off target: 3-8
Blocked shots: 1-1
Fouls conceded: 12-18
Corners: 2-2
Offsides: 2-6
Possession: 38.5-61.5
Yellow: 1-0
a crazy
game in the second half..."
Rafael Benitez
2901: Lucas: Reds still in title hunt
2901: TEAMtalk Tirade: Rafa will never rule
2901: Yossi frustrated as points slip away
2801: Dig deep for a defence of Rafa Benitez
2801: Rafa rues Wigan draw
2801: Latics leave it late to hold Reds 

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 League title.

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 table.

Lucas told BBC Radio Merseyside: "If we don't believe, then who will?

"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 dispatched.

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 frustrating.

"For everybody (it is frustrating), we were maybe two or three points ahead of the other teams at the end of the year.

"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.

TEAMtalk Tirade:
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 criticising officials.

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 football.

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 trot.

Benitez will argue they're still serious contenders, especially if they beat second-placed Chelsea at Anfield this weekend.

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.

Yossi 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 matches.

Benayoun told 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 around soon.

"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 today.

"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 the win.

"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."

Dig deep 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 time?

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 condemn him.

Rafa rues Wigan draw

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 'crazy'.

"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 second half.

"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 efforts.

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 post.

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 angles.

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.

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Thor Zakariassen ©