Puzzled Rafa can't work it out
Rafael Benitez can't work out why
Liverpool's home form is hurting their faltering title bid.
The Reds slipped up again at Anfield on Wednesday night,
allowing Wigan to leave with a point courtesy of a late
equaliser from Titus Bramble.
And they've now won just four of 10 Premier League home
games this season.
Tha latest Merseyside slip left Benitez and co 12 points
behind leaders Arsenal at the end of the normally key
And the frustrated Spaniard is at a loss when it comes to
finding the solution.
"It is difficult to explain why our home form is not good,"
he told the club's official website.
"We are controlling all the games, we are passing the ball
well, controlling almost everything. But we pay for one
"There is no need to analyse the four holiday games. We
deserved to beat Manchester City, we deserved to win against
Wigan, while we beat Portsmouth and Derby.
"But we have lost four points in these games and it has
meant the gap is bigger.
"There is no point being too critical of performances. We
know we were much better than City and Wigan but we know we
need to win, that is simple."
blowing title dreams
By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
Steve Finnan today admitted Liverpool’s
title challenge is being undermined by a failure to turn
their dominance into victories.
The Reds endured another frustrating game at Anfield last
night as they wasted a number of opportunities in a 1-1 draw
with lowly Wigan.
It was the second Premiership match in succession in which
Liverpool have dropped points despite being the better side
after Sunday’s goal less draw with Man City and Finnan – who
set up Fernando Torres’ goal – was left hugely disappointed
that their superiority again went unrewarded.
“No disrespect to Wigan but if you want to challenge for the
title then you need to be winning games like this,” he said.
“We had taken the lead as well and we thought we were going
to go on and win the game.
“The goal we scored was a good one and it is obviously
frustrating and really disappointing that we didn’t win.
“The first goal is always important, especially when a team
sits back a lot because it can be hard to break them down.
“So when you get that first goal you think you will go on
from there but we didn’t do that and they came back into the
“After Titus (Bramble) scored we had one or two chances but
we didn’t really look like we were going to score and
overall it is disappointing.
“We have players who are capable of scoring goals but
sometimes they just don’t go in and it was the same against
Man City but we definitely have the players there.”
Despite seeing another two points dropped, Finann refused to
rule Liverpool out of the title race – although he did admit
it would be difficult for them to win it from 12 points
behind leaders Arsenal, albeit with a game in hand.
He said: “Hopefully we can but I suppose we say that all the
“We’ve slipped up at home and it is going to be really
difficult but we’ve got to look to the 18 games we’ve got
left and try to do our best.”
Rafa defends team selection
By Al Campbell - LFC Online
Rafael Benitez has defended his decision
to play one up front last night.
Benitez played Fernando Torres as a lone striker in last
night's home game against lowly Wigan. The Reds were then
held to a feeble 1-1 draw. After the game the Liverpool boss
defended his team selection.
"If you analyse the game, they were playing long balls and
trying to win the second ball, whereas we were moving the
ball and you could see Pennant, Kewell, Torres and Gerrard
involved in all the attacks," said Benitez.
"I am really disappointed because it's another game where we
needed a little bit of luck. We had plenty of possession and
chances, and you need to take those chances.
"The other team just defended, then got a free kick and won
the second ball, and they've got a draw.
"We were trying to play with wingers really wide and Gerrard
getting into the box. We wanted to spread the other team. If
you play with more strikers but the other team is really
deep, maybe it is more difficult. We wanted to create
Steve Bruce believes Wigan's 1-1 result
against Liverpool will give everyone at the club a huge lift
in their battle to avoid the drop.
A second goal in as many matches for Titus Bramble cancelled
out Fernando Torres' opener and earned The Latics a first
ever point against one of the 'big four'.
It also maintained Bruce's excellent record against Reds
boss Rafa Benitez - he has never been beaten in the Premier
League by the Spaniard.
The former Birmingham boss felt his players got what they
deserved for their efforts, particularly after the
disappointment of losing at home to Aston Villa at the
"It gives everybody a huge lift," he told Sky Sports. "If
everybody stays fit then we have got an outstanding chance
(of staying up).
"I believed we deserved something on Saturday against Aston
Villa and tonight I think we deserved what we got out of it.
"You're always going to come to Liverpool and find it a bit
difficult. They've got world class players who can play in
any team across Europe, so you have to come here and have a
bit of belief.
"Full credit to the players; for the last six weeks they've
produced some really good performances. To get a point at
Liverpool is really nice."
Bruce also praised scorer Bramble, who rifled home from the
edge of the area with 10 minutes to go after Liverpool had
failed to clear a free-kick.
The defender has proved an excellent acquisition and his
current manager is just glad he's finally got him in his
squad after he tried, and failed, to sign him this summer
while in charge at Birmingham.
"I've always liked him as a player," Bruce admitted. "I
tried to get him in the summer (when I was at Birmingham).
"I think he just needs a bit of confidence. People forget
he's only 23 or 24, and he'll only get better."
rues missed chances
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was a
frustrated man after seeing his side held to a 1-1 draw at
by struggling Wigan.
Titus Bramble's late equaliser means The Reds slip below
Manchester City to fifth in the table, 12 points behind
league leaders Arsenal.
It had all looked so good for Benitez and the home fans when
Fernando Torres opened the scoring in the 49th minute.
However, their inability to improve on such a slender lead
came back to haunt them when Bramble rammed home from the
edge of the area with 10 minutes to play.
"It was frustrating," the Spaniard told Sky Sports after
seeing his side held to a draw for the second successive
"When you have chances you need to take them and finish
these types of games. They had just one chance in the second
half and get a draw.
"We tried to play wide and create the space for Torres and I
thought we were creating enough for scoring a second goal
and finish the game."
The Spaniard added: "Sometimes you need a bit of luck."
Despite the sizeable gap to top spot after a second
successive league draw, Benitez unsurprisingly refused to
rule his team out of the title race just yet.
Instead the former Valencia boss maintained his policy of
looking ahead to the next game - an FA Cup third tie away at
Luton Town on Sunday.
"You know that we need to do nearly everything perfect," he
"If you lose points like today, it is more difficult.
"I think we need now to think about the FA Cup now and then
think about the next game. The season is very long."
lose ground on top three
Liverpool’s slim title hopes were all-but
extinguished after they were held to a 1-1 draw by
struggling Wigan at Anfield.
The draw, coupled with Manchester City’s win at Newcastle,
dropped Rafael Benitez’s side to fifth in the Barclays
Premier League and left them trailing leaders Arsenal by 12
points with a match in hand.
Striker Fernando Torres had put the home side ahead in the
49th minute but they could not find the important second
goal and Titus Bramble smashed in an 80th-minute equaliser.
Wigan boss Steve Bruce has long had the Indian sign over
Benitez and now he has managed to frustrate the Liverpool
boss twice in the same season at Anfield with different
Bruce never lost a league match to Benitez while he was at
former club Birmingham and earlier this season he engineered
a draw for Blues at Anfield and he achieved a similar result
on his return.
Winger Jermaine Pennant made his Liverpool comeback after
being out since October with a fractured right leg, while
Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt were rested to the bench, with
Xabi Alonso also returning.
Wigan made one change from the side that lost at home to
Aston Villa last time out, former Liverpool striker Emile
Heskey returned from injury with Antoine Sibierski dropping
to the bench.
The visitors’ game plan was pretty obvious, putting every
one behind the ball in their own half when Liverpool had
possession, which was almost continuously in the opening
Heskey and Marcus Bent were quick to break and after
spinning the ball around between themselves for long spells
it was the loss of possession by the hosts, and a ball up to
the big England striker, that forced Jose Reina into a swift
run to the edge of the box to punch hurriedly away.
Liverpool were painfully slow in their build-up and the
nearest they got in the opening stages was when Torres was
judged fractionally offside when he got away to beat Chris
Kirkland after 13 minutes.
Wigan were quick to make use of set-pieces and when a corner
was not cleared Michael Brown lashed as 20-yard shot just
wide of a post.
Kirkland saved well after 21 minutes when Javier Mascherano
exchanged passes with Torres before rolling in a low shot.
From then on until the break it was Liverpool who were
frustrated as they searched for openings, with Torres
lifting a pass into the box only for Gerrard’s snap-shot to
be held by Kirkland.
Crosses from Pennant, Steve Finnan and Steven Gerrard all
caused problems but without any end product.
Torres then saw a flicked header just clear the crossbar
after a 25-yard Alonso free-kick, before the Spain striker
set up Gerrard for a right-foot shot which he pulled wide of
the far post.
The breakthrough for Liverpool came soon after the break
when Finnan committed himself to attack to disrupt Wigan’s
After 49 minutes he found Gerrard on the right and kept
running for the return, which arrived perfectly for him to
cross first-time to allow Torres to tuck the ball inside
Kirkland’s left-hand post.
Paul Scharner was booked after 58 minutes for a foul on
Mascherano and when Gerrard fired in a fierce free-kick
Kirkland spilled it and the Argentinian almost got on the
end of the slip.
Scharner’s late intervention stopped Torres adding another
after a clever flick, before Kirkland saved well to his left
from a Gerrard drive.
Liverpool needed the cushion of a second goal and Torres’
cross-field ball presented Harry Kewell with a chance but he
blasted inches over from 30 yards.
It was the Australian’s last involvement as he was replaced
by Benayoun after 73 minutes.
Mascherano was booked for a foul on Bent as Wigan broke
quickly from defence and before the free-kick Wigan sent on
Jason Koumas for Ryan Taylor.
But when the set-piece was lifted into the box Gerrard
failed to get the ball away properly and when it fell to
defender Bramble he lashed a shot past Reina for his second
goal in as many matches.
Gerrard tried to make amends, firing a low shot at Kirkland
that was pushed out with the Liverpool captain just failing
to reach the rebound.
Liverpool sent on Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt for Mascherano
and Pennant but they could not force a winner.