Wednesday, January 13, 2010

DEFCON-1 for Liverpool and Rafael Benitez After Abysmal FA Cup Defeat to Reading

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Liverpool's disastrous season under their bungling manager Rafael Benitez has almost hit rock bottom. Outplayed by Reading at Anfield, the once great club have bowed out of the FA Cup.

For many fans of Liverpool, Rafa has now reached his rubicon. Last season's progress gave him one more year to bring the club forward, but this season has seen the club lurch from one crisis to another.

Going into the match, Liverpool were firm favourites to go through to face Burnley in the next round. Depending on which bookmaker you went to, you could find manager-less Reading at 14/1 to win, such was the task in front of them.

Fourth from the bottom in England's second tier, Reading have been a shambles this season and the FA Cup was more a welcome distraction for the Royals than the necessity it was for Liverpool.

Rafa fielded a very strong team but they were robbed of their two best players through injury after Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were both taken off.

Even with their only two great players on the pitch the Reds were second best throughout, and it was only through the flukiest of deflections from a Gerrard cross that they took a lucky lead.

Without them, they looked like a team going through the motions.

Reading had to wait until injury time for their deserved equalizer. It came from the penalty spot after Yossi Benayoun's foolish swipe caught Shane Long's ankles. Sigurdsson's cool penalty gave Reading the goal their play deserved and the game went into extra time.

The Royals got the winner when Shane Long latched on to a training ground cross at the edge of the six yard box to steer home the winning goal with a deft header. It was the strikers first goal this season.

The defeat means that Liverpool are now out of the FA Cup, out of the Carling Cup, out of the Champions League, out of the title race, and looking at the very real possibility of missing out on fourth place as Manchester City, Spurs, and Aston Villa will no doubt improve in the transfer window.

Never mind the Europa Cup, at this stage of Liverpool's calamitous season, European football's second trophy is something the club could do without.

The real bad news of this FA Cup tie is that over the course of two games, against one of the worst teams in the Championship, Liverpool failed to score and were outplayed by their lesser rivals.

Tonight the folly of Rafa's dealings in the transfer market really came home to roost.

Alberto Aquilani was abysmal, as Reading's midfield played like he wasn't there. Lucas...well Lucas was Lucas, his usual poor self. Jamie Carragher did not enjoy the best of nights and Steven Gerrard looked strangely mute again. Actually, Philip Degen, who Liverpool fans love to hate, was probably their best player on the night. He was certainly the hardest working.

Liverpool are now in a real battle for fourth, and with the World Cup coming up they face the likelihood of losing both Gerrard and Torres to operations.

What all this adds up to is that Liverpool are in the middle of their worst run for some time. Over their last 20 games, they have lost 10, drew four, and won six. To top things off, they could be without their best players for a number of games.

Not a situation or record befitting of a club with the kind of standards Liverpool are used too.

The economy of positivity that many Liverpool fans have used to argue their defence of Benitez is now just a hollow shell. As the team, led by their manager, trudged off the pitch to a chorus of boo's, it now looks like many are beginning to realise that Benitez may not be the manager to return the glory days to the club.

The clock is ticking...

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