Tuesday, 27 January 2009

People Living In Glass Houses [Football]

So for the second time in a week, the bragging rights of Merseyside were shared at Anfield, which means both Liverpool and Everton must square off one last time this season at Goodison next Wednesday. On prime time telly no less. The prize? A 5th round FA Cup tie at home to Tom Hanks' boys, Aston Villa. But the honours for the most churlish manager of the year yet again goes emphatically to Rafael Benitez.

Over the past few weeks, Benitez has developed a sizeable chip on his shoulder, which after Sunday's outburst has now become a large portion of chips on his shoulder, salt and vinegar included. And once again, Everton were the subject of his ire. Benitez was infuriated that a team with just one fit striker and virtually no midfield, looked to play to their own strength's and not let his Liverpool side have their own way. Everton, having taken a first half lead through Joleon Lescott, decided defence was the best form of attack and did duly allow Liverpool to come onto them. However all Liverpool had to show for their territorial and possession dominance was another Steven Gerrard derby goal which owed a lot to the class of Fernando Torres and the clumsiness of Tim Howard.

So it was only natural that Benitez would ignore his own side's failings, i.e. allowing Tim Cahill a free header in the box for the 2nd game running and his own side just plain not being good enough to break down a resolute Everton side. Benitez chose instead to blame Everton's negative tactics, claiming only one team wanted to win the game and one team wanted to draw it. He also claimed he never would and never has employed such tactics. It was classic Benitez, blaming someone else for his own problems.

David Moyes for his part, refused to bite and shot down these accusations quite majestically by claiming that while Liverpool are "A great club going for the title", Everton were a club that "did things with dignity and style". A great retort from a less childish manager. But if Moyes had wanted to enter into a war of words with Benitez, then he could easily have reminded his Iberian counterpart of Liverpool's glorious Champions League triumph of 2005. Then he could have reminded Benitez of tactics he used at the Stadio Delle Alpi in the 2nd leg of the quarter final against Juventus, in which Liverpool needed a goalless draw to reach the last four of the competition. Or indeed the tactics he used, at Anfield no less, in the 2nd leg of the Semi-Final against Jose Mourinho's Chelsea once Liverpool had taken the lead in the 4th minute. Or maybe he could have reminded the Spaniard of the tactics he employed once Liverpool had completed their remarkable comeback on the hour mark of that famous night in Istanbul. On all three ocassions, Benitez utilized the exact tactics he lambasted Moyes for using on Sunday, and to an extent on Monday too.

Moyes has since refused to discuss Benitez's comments, claiming he is "not interested". And it is Benitez that has once again, made himself look like a petty spoilt child. All this hot on the heels from his now infamous attack on Alex Ferguson. Even then, Benitez managed to accuse Ferguson of things that he himself has complained about in the past, most notably the fixture schedule for his side after Champions League ties.

It is simply quite clear that until Benitez addresses his own short-comings, he may never deliver that coveted 19th League Title to Anfield. Instead he may be in danger of disappearing up his own considerable backside. Which, like next Wednesday's 4th round replay, will make for entertaining viewing for the nation.

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