gained by resting Reina
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Leaving Pepe Reina out of the side against
Barnsley was always going to be a risk because, for me, he
is the best keeper in the Premiership.
I don’t think it’s right to blame individuals for the defeat
because it was a collective failure – you win as a team and
you lose as a team – so there is no point in having a go at
But, having said that, I don’t see what was gained by
He is now as important to the team as Steven Gerrard and
Jamie Carragher and he has to be one of the first names on
the Liverpool team sheet.
I can see what Rafa was thinking because with the Inter
Milan game just three days away he will have felt he could
rest a few of his senior players against opposition from a
But it didn’t work and when it doesn’t work you have to hold
your hands up.
The important thing is Reina will be back in goal tonight
and hopefully he will show why I and many others believe he
is one of the best.
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
What an awful, unholy, unparalleled mess.
Brave Barnsley were the FA Cup’s darlings this weekend, and
But, at risk of sounding churlish, the Tykes have been the
beneficiaries of a car crash which has been waiting to
For two months now, Liverpool have been hurtling down the
fast lane with three-men grappling for the steering wheel.
They’ve had bumps, scrapes and narrowly missed major
catastrophes along the way – but on Saturday they finally
veered into oncoming traffic, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
The patience of the resolutely faithful Anfield crowd
This time there were boos – and they were clearly directed
at the Liverpool players responsible for yet another
wretched home result.
But in true Anfield tradition, the responsibility here has
to be collective.
Because there are so many things wrong at the club right now
it’s difficult to know where to start.
Ever since the American owners started plotting behind the
manager’s back, the club has had a man with a persecution
complex pulling the strings, a man making decisions he might
not otherwise have made.
The owners themselves are divided on which way the club
Rafa Benitez now has the support of Tom Hicks, just weeks
after Hicks courted Jurgen Klinsmann for the job.
George Gillett is nowhere to be seen, while David Moores and
Rick Parry have had to turn themselves from horrified
bystanders into agents trying to curb the worst excesses of
Everywhere you look there are divisions, fractures and
And if you want evidence that the shambles is transmitting
itself to the players, it was there in abundance on Saturday
– on and off the pitch.
On the pitch the reluctance to take responsibility in front
of goal was marked.
And off it, no-one wanted to be tarred by association with
such a car crash of a result – the admirable Steven Gerrard
Alvaro Arbeloa had to be physically shoved down the running
track by Benitez to warm up, and even then started his jog
with his hands in his pockets!
And then there is the team selection.
Squad rotation only works when you have a quality squad.
Liverpool’s is simply not good enough.
Take Gerrard and Fernando Torres out of the line-up and the
goal side’s attacking threat is reduced to all the menace of
Wayne Sleep coming at you with a feather duster.
But it is between the sticks where the lack of strength in
depth is most marked.
Liverpool is a club of great goalkeepers – Scott, Clemence,
Grobbelaar, Reina. Heavens, even the club’s telegraphic
address used to be ‘Goalkeeer.’
Charles Itandje’s name will never feature in the same
sentence as that illustrious quartet.
He is simply not good enough for a club of Liverpool’s
That much was evident when neighbours Everton gave him a
trial last summer – and moved him on in favour of the
marginally more reliable Steffan Wessels.
Fingers were pointed at the German when Everton were dumped
out of the FA Cup by Oldham.
On Saturday Itandje should have done better with both
Barnsley goals, particularly Foster’s flying header which
passed straight through him.
In cup ties, moments like these are pivotal.
So is it really necessary to ‘rest’ a goalkeeper –
especially one as influential as Pepe Reina?
Answers on a postcard please to R Benitez, Melwood.
The only positive to come out of Saturday’s disaster is that
attention instantly shifts to another cup challenge, one
that Liverpool’s first choice team will endeavour to win.
A Liverpool with Reina, Gerrard, Mascherano and Torres in it
is an infinitely better proposition than one featuring
replacements not up to the task of replacing them.
It says it all that Reds fans are now craving saviours
bearing the initials DIC.
Barnsley may be a watershed in Liverpool’s modern history;
it may be another signpost on the road to hell.
Right now, no-one knows just where this is going to end.
Magical solution to Anfield
misery remains a mystery
By Chris Beesley - Liverpool Daily Post
Anyone who still clings on to the naïve or
misguided belief that off-the-field uncertainties are not
affecting Liverpool’s form on the pitch must have been
burying their head in the sand during Saturday’s FA Cup tie
If there are any such individuals still out there it can
only be assumed that they found the sand in Dubai on their
way to find the white knights of DIC with their begging bowl
while trying to negotiate their way out of the desert and on
to the grass which is always greener on the other side.
So many people with what they feel are the best interests of
Liverpool Football Club at heart have got their own personal
master plan at the moment but nobody has yet come forward
with a magic solution to the instability.
February 16 2008 will go down in Anfield history as a dark
day with Barnsley dumping Liverpool out of the FA Cup but
away from the action on the turf, the fans group which calls
itself ‘The Sons of Shankly’ held their latest meeting at
Although arguably not as radical as the hardcore ‘Nieces and
Nephews of Nessie’ – word is you get a slice of cake at each
of their meetings – this football political rally showed
just how frustrated a section of the club’s supporters are
with the ownership issue.
The event came just 24 hours after a presentation at
Liverpool Hope University on how a ‘Barcelona-style’ fans
ownership scheme could supposedly be implemented at Anfield
but it seems that ‘Hope’ remains the operative word there.
Rogan Taylor and his followers have taken what they see as
being the moral high ground but their idealistic vision of a
football utopia will surely remain a pipedream.
The figure of £5,000-a-head to join is insulting to the
ordinary supporter who will be immediately be priced out of
this ownership by ‘the people’ and the membership count of
100,000 would presumably include a large portion of the
global fanbase the fat cats at the Premier League offices
seem so fond of pandering to with overseas matches seeing as
the record home attendance in Liverpool’s entire history is
less than 62,000.
Would a change of ownership solve all Liverpool’s problems
full stop? Like the team against Barnsley, the club’s
supporters might find that just one goal is not enough.
A word of warning to ‘The Sons of Shankly’, who presumably,
to a certain degree, share the late manager’s socialist
sentiments, the fact is that like it or not their club owes
its origins to the ultimate football entrepreneur.
John Houlding, a hard-nosed businessman of the shrewdest
kind created Liverpool FC from scratch in 1892 as a means to
make money because Everton left Anfield claiming he was
trying to make a profit at the club’s expense.
Unlike most of their rivals, English football’s most
successful team did not evolve from a bunch of lads from the
community who wanted to play the game they loved but instead
started life as a ready-made club to satisfy Mr Houlding’s
Fast forward 116 years and things have turned full circle.
If only the ‘Sons of Shankly’ could have used Barnsley’s
visit to Anfield to enlist the support of the Yorkshire
town’s most high profile political figure, Arthur Scargill,
to help them keep their red flag flying high.
Instead, those of us in the vicinity of the directors box
were treated to Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird’s one-man show.
The septuagenarian former Test umpire didn’t take his seat
at Anfield until 3.15pm, declaring that he’d stopped off in
Lancashire for a bite to eat en route – perhaps a genetic
thriftiness caused a delay in settling the bill?
With his fellow Barnsley fans chanting ‘Yorkshire,
Yorkshire’, an excitable Dickie seemed to think he was back
at the cricket, shouting, ‘Wide, wide,’ on numerous
occasions during the first half but it turned out he was
trying to issue instructions to the Championship team to get
possession out to a winger as opposed to calling a ‘no ball’
from the bowler at Kemlyn Road pavilion end.
But for all Liverpool’s missed chances and the goalkeeping
heroics of Barnsley debutant Luke Steele, who played the
game of his life, there could be no begrudging the visitors
their last gasp-winner, which came shortly after a seemingly
good claim for a penalty had been turned down.
There have been rumblings of discontent at Liverpool since
November but it remains to be seen whether Brian Howard’s
goal sparks any football equivalent of the storming of the
Winter Palace at Anfield.
The legendary Liverpool manager from whom ‘The Sons of
Shankly’ take their name is credited with many a famous
Just who was by his side jotting down all these pearls of
wisdom every waking hour it’s not sure – even good old John
Keith couldn’t have been there all the time repeating the
word ‘Son’ in his best faux Scottish accent.
But unlike Harry Kewell or Ryan Babel, Bill was a proper
left winger who declared: “The socialism I believe in is
everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a
share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how
I see life.”
Unfortunately that’s the exact opposite of what seems to be
going on currently at Anfield.
imploded after Paco exit
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge
believes the loss of Rafael Benitez's assistant Paco
Ayesteran is a major factor in the team's plight.
Benitez's side crashed out of the FA Cup courtesy of
Barnsley's injury-time winner at Anfield on Saturday.
With their Premier League campaign now confined to a race
for fourth place, that leaves them with just the Champions
League to contest, with the first leg of their last-16 tie
with Inter Milan taking place this week.
And highly-decorated former striker Aldridge admits ongoing
confusion off the field is adding to problems on the pitch.
"It's not going too well on and off the field at the
moment," he told Setanta Sports News. "The club's imploded
over the past couple of months and it can only get better.
"A lot of people are getting the wrong idea of what's
happening. You can look back to when Paco went a couple of
months ago, Rafa's right-hand man, I think that's got a
massive bearing on it.
"He's holding the fort on his own without a right-hand man.
He's working very hard on his own and under very difficult
circumstances and I think he needs a bit of help right now."
As for matters upstairs, Aldridge added: "There's so much
speculation going on off the park regarding the American
owners (George Gillett and Tom Hicks) that we don't know
who's going to be the chairman next month.
"If anyone did want Rafa to go then who could sack him at
the moment? He's between parties, the old chairman David
Moores hasn't got a say in the matter. There's no board at
the moment, no-one knows where the club's going at the
attack on Benitez
Liverpool Daily Post
Legendary Liverpool defender Tommy Smith
has launched a stinging criticism of Reds boss Rafael
Benitez after his side were knocked out of the FA Cup by
Brian Howard’s injury-time winner at Anfield dumped
Liverpool out of yet another competition, leaving them with
just the Champions League - in which they face Inter Milan
this week - to contest.
And Smith, who captained Liverpool to the 1971 league and
UEFA Cup double, has hit out at Benitez’s controversial
rotation policy and decision to rest several key players for
yesterday’s visit of the Coca-Cola Championship side.
Smith told BBC Radio Five Live: “In the programme for
yesterday’s game Benitez said cup competitions are always
dangerous if you think you can beat teams easily. So why on
earth didn’t he put a strong team out against Barnsley?”
Smith admitted Reds fans may finally start to run out of
patience with the Spanish boss.
“I should imagine so. At the end of the day Bill Shankly
used to tell us you’re only as good as your last result. How
on earth does Benitez think he’s going to win stuff if he
puts a second-class team out?
“Because Liverpool’s squad is not as strong as I think he
thought at the beginning of the season. I don’t think he’s
even got a strong first XI.
“How could he leave (Jose) Reina, (Steven) Gerrard and
(Javier) Mascherano out?”
Smith admitted the last-16 European tie with Inter is now
“I’m afraid so,” he said. “He keeps going on about winning
four cups and all that but at the end of the day it’s not
even entertaining at Anfield at the moment. The crowd keep
it going but they booed everybody at the end of the game and
“The first person you put on the team-sheet is Gerrard. How
on earth could he sit on the bench for 75 minutes and watch
that...then he (Benitez) talks about chances. Well, they’ve
gone. You can’t score after the game finishes.”
Benitez demands respect
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has hit
back at his critics after the Reds were dumped out of the FA
Cup by Barnsley at Anfield.
The Tykes, who sit mid-table in the Championship, recorded a
huge upset as they came from behind to knock Liverpool out
And the defeat adds increasing pressure on under-fire
Benitez as Liverpool can now only realistically target
silverware in this season's UEFA Champions League.
But Benitez, who took over at Anfield in 2004, has defended
his record at Liverpool after guiding the Merseyside outfit
to two Champions League finals in the past three years -
including winning the competition in 2005.
Benitez has also steered Liverpool to success in the 2006 FA
Cup and Community Shield, alongside the 2005 European Super
Cup, and the Spaniard believes that record deserves respect.
"If you analyse the last few years since I came to the club
we have won four trophies and been in seven finals,
including two in the Champions League," Benitez said in The
"How many other managers have done the same in their first
three or four years at the club? People can talk about being
successful but nobody is winning trophies every year.
"To do that is really difficult so I think we are in a
really good position with a very young squad, so I have a
lot of confidence in the team for the future."
Benitez's relationship with Liverpool's American owners
George Gillett and Tom Hicks has also been questioned and
his future at the club was cast into doubt after the duo met
Jurgen Klinsmann, who is set to takeover at Bayern in the
summer, earlier in the season.
"When you are trying to work hard and do your job it is hard
to accept the criticism that is always following me,"
Benitez added. "And, yes, it is a big surprise to see
another manager in the background."
Benitez, though, is confident Liverpool stand a good chance
of progressing in the Champions League when they meet
Italian champions Internazionale in the last 16 on Tuesday.
"It could be important to us to progress in Europe because
that would give us more confidence, particualry if we beat a
team like Inter," Benitez continued.
"It's not impossible. We have done it before and we could do
it again - why not?"
By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
When results go bad there is only one
place the axe will ever ultimately fall, which is why Rafa
Benitez is probably already investing in a spade to dig
himself an escape route after Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to
Yet the true test of a supporter is to back the team, the
club and the manager when they’re losing, particularly in
this case where I feel Benitez is not the problem.
Anybody who saw Saturday’s loss – which goes down as
arguably the greatest cup shock since The Premier League
began – will know Liverpool should have hit double figures.
Why they didn’t can be debated in great detail. Should
Steven Gerrard have started? Missed chances? Lazy defending?
But the fact of the matter is Benitez fielded a side more
than capable of beating Barnsley, in fact they were more
than capable of battering Barnsley – as the shot count
The problem? Some of the players are not good enough for
Liverpool Football Club. Pure and simple.
Since the arrival of Liverpool’s ‘loaded’ owners, Benitez
has instantly been hit with the expectations that come with
the prospect of ‘endless amounts’ of money.
'He has money so he should now deliver the title' is the
A closer look shows that Benitez has been able to buy just
one player for big money since the arrival of Messers Hicks
and Gillett, and a phenomenal buy he has proved in Fernando
Other than that, Benitez has had to carry on with players
like Dirk Kuyt (how did the guy ever score 20-plus goals
in Holland?), Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch.
All Rafa buys I hear you say? Yes but all Rafa buys when he
was working to a budget.
By comparison, Manchester United and Chelsea have been
buying players of £15-£20 million for several years. For
Torres read Rooney, Hargreaves, Anderson, Ferdinand,
Carrick, Wright-Phillips, Shevchenko, Drogba…need I go on.
Liverpool are a distance behind their rivals for technical
class on the ball right now, yet a look at the youth players
Benitez is bringing in – the likes of Dani Pacheco from
Barcelona – shows the clear direction in which he wishes to
take the club.
The Reds’ squad is the best its been under Benitez even if
results have not been, Reina, Carragher, Finnan, Babel,
Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, Torres all top players.
Sometimes a club must take a step back to move two forwards,
and for once Liverpool must take a leaf out of the book of
neighbours Everton, who have come on leaps and bounds after
backing David Moyes through two poor seasons.
Saturday’s result should not be overlooked - it was a
But it should act as a clear reminder not of Benitez's
shortcomings, but more of the mediocrity the Spaniard is
being asked to work with despite the arrival of the club's
down at cup exit
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was left to
rue his side's lack of a killer instinct after they were
dumped out of the FA Cup by Barnsley.
Championship side Barnsley caused a major shock as they came
from behind to record a famous 2-1 win at Anfield.
Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele was Liverpool's nemesis with
a superb performance on his debut to deny the home side on
"It is very difficult [to describe his feelings] you must be
frustrated today," Benitez told Sky Sports News.
"In terms of work ethic we cannot say anything to the
players. They worked really hard, we had a lot of chances,
but again it was the same situation as in other games.
"We are controlling games but we cannot take our chances and
"So today was the same. The keeper was a very good signing,
he was man-of-the-match with some great saves.
"I am really, really disappointed.
"We had chances, their keeper made fantastic saves, they
score in the last minute and sometimes that is football.
"All we can do now is prepare for the next game, we know it
is an important game so we must put our heads up and be
ready to work really hard for this game."
hails Tykes heroes
Barnsley boss Simon Davey hailed his
players after their famous 2-1 win over Liverpool at
Brian Howard's last-gasp goal earned the Championship club a
shock victory to dump out Rafa Benitez's side.
Barnsley came from behind with Stephen Foster cancelling out
Dirk Kuyt's first-half opener before Howard stole the
headlines with his dramatic winner.
Davey was full of praise for his players as they overcame
all the odds to book their place in the quarter-finals.
"Fantastic. We came here and said we would enjoy the game
and we have enjoyed the day," Davey told Sky Sports News.
"We had a gameplan and to be fair there was no coming back
from that when we scored at the last.
"Credit to the players, they have been fantastic from the
first minute and now they have got their rewards - they are
in the next round.
"I always thought we would be in the game. We kept it tight,
at half-time we were 1-0 down and if you get one chance and
stick it away, you have got a chance. We kept it going and
scored two great goals. I am pleased for them."
Davey was delighted with new boy Luke Steele who enjoyed a
debut to remember with the goalkeeper denying Liverpool on a
number of occasions with several superb saves.
"It's come on his debut at Anfield in the fifth round. He
pulled off some 'worldies'.
"Every player has stood up... it's a great day for the
supporters and the board.
"Liverpool are a good side and put us under pressure. There
were some fantastic last-ditch tackles in the box, and I
thought it was a penalty at the end."
Davey also admitted it was "a fairytale" ending for boyhood
Liverpool fan Howard to grab the winner.
"It's a fairytale, it's what dreams are made of - he's
scored the winner in an FA Cup tie at the Kop end. It is
fantastic and it will live with the players for a long, long
Reds out of FA Cup
An injury-time goal by Barnsley’s Brian
Howard sent Liverpool crashing out of the FA Cup at Anfield
and increased the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.
The Reds led through Dirk Kuyt’s first goal since December –
but on-loan goalkeeper Luke Steele produced a string of
oustanding saves on his debut to keep the Coca-Cola
Championship side in the contest.
And, after Stephen Foster headed Barnsley level just before
the hour mark, Howard stunned the home side with his late
Liverpool left captain Steven Gerrard on the bench and
rested Javier Mascherano, Jose Reina and the almost fit
Fernando Torres for this tie, with Tuesday's visit of Inter
Milan clearly figuring in Benitez's thoughts.
French goalkeeper Charles Itandje got another run-out, while
Jamie Carragher captained the side.
Steele – on loan – was in goal for the visitors, while
former Everton midfielder Anderson De Silva was included.
Simon Davey’s team had tremendous support at Anfield, with
7,000 Tykes making themselves heard in the Anfield Road end.
In the second minute they were almost celebrating a goal
when Istvan Ferenczi’s header was blocked by Carragher.
But John Arne Riise and Lucas saw long-range efforts fly
wide at the other end, Peter Crouch headed past a post from
Steve Finnan’s cross, before Kuyt failed to hit the target
from Yossi Benayoun’s cross.
In the 18th minute Crouch went close with an angled effort
that Steele needed to be at full-stretch to touch wide.
Ryan Babel got into the box on the right to fire in a shot
that Steele held - but Barnsley had a great chance to
opening the scoring in the 28th minute when Daniel Nardiello
robbed Sami Hyypia before racing into the box and forcing
goalkeeper Charles Itandje into a low save to his right.
Steele was in action again a minute later, clawing away an
18-yard effort from Xabi Alonso – and soon after the Kop let
out a roar of relief when they took the lead with Kuyt’s
first goal since the Champions League win in Marseille in
Xabi Alonso swept the ball out to Babel, who made ground
into the box before pulling the ball back for the Dutch
striker to sweep home from six yards.
Steele did well to keep out a Crouch header on the stroke of
half-time – and the home side started the second period
strongly with Benayoun and Babel going close.
Barnsley took off Nardiello and sent on Kayode Odejayi,
giving Davey’s team more of an aerial threat – and in the
56th minute it worked.
Martin Devaney launched an excellent cross on the run from
the right, and defender Foster rose to power a header that
Itandje got a hand to but could not stop crashing into the
Benayoun and Crouch had shots cleared off the line in quick
succession, then Hyypia had two efforts blocked as Liverpool
Lucas saw a header turned onto the bar by Steele, who
snaffled the rebound - then made another good save after
Benayoun’s run and shot.
Harry Kewell replaced Babel, before Gerrard was sent on for
Lucas after 75 minutes.
The England midfielder’s first surging run covered 60 yards
and won his team a corner – but at the other end Itandje was
looking anything but comfortable.
The Liverpool goalkeeper clattered into Odejayi outside the
box, and then palmed away a Howard effort.
Kewell had two efforts blocked, then clipped the bar from 25
yards – but all the noise was coming from the Barnsley fans.
Steele then made a marvellous save to turn over a Kewell
hook, and Crouch had the ball taken off his foot in the act
The same thing happening to Kuyt seconds after – with Dennis
Souza again the defender with the right timing.
Carragher was booked three minutes from time – a caution
which will see him banned against Middlesbrough next
But worse was to follow in the second minute of injury-time
when Howard found space on the edge of the box to drill home
The Yorkshire fans erupted, and they had just 30 seconds to
wait for the final whistle and confirmation of a famous