February 16, 2008

Liverpool bundled out of FA Cup by Barnsley.: Championship League side Barnsley came to Anfield and did the unthinkable, scoring a last-gasp winner 30 seconds from the end to knock out Liverpool, a team currently 29 places above them. Will Rafa Benitez walk alone after this?

posted by worldcup2002 to soccer at 11:05 AM - 13 comments

Too many times this season and in the past, Liverpool have played like this. Plodding toward some unclear conclusion, making the majority of chances but never really dominating, not showing enough confidence or imagination for the breakthrough. And then their opposition snaps up the one chance that matters. Surely, Rafa must be on his last legs here.

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:08 AM on February 16, 2008

That second half? About as good as it gets in the FA Cup: Barnsley get a deserved equaliser, deflect everything that's thrown at them until stoppage time, then push forward, get denied a penalty, and bang in the winner at the death. These things happen in the cup. If Merkin & Merkin, Speculators In Football think it's grounds to sack the boss, they deserve to be bought out tomorrow.

posted by etagloh at 11:33 AM on February 16, 2008

Well, I was considering the season up to this point. It hasn't given too much to cheer for. On to the Champs League, then. And well played, Barnsley. Well played.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:14 PM on February 16, 2008

Fantastic match. Everything the ManU/Arsenal match wasn't. At least I can still look toward the league (and maybe CL).

posted by trox at 01:45 PM on February 16, 2008

I cannot believe I went to the market. Ugh. Eight minutes left in the game and I decide to go do some errands.

posted by 86 at 02:14 PM on February 16, 2008

That was much more entertaining than just about any league match I've seen this year. Stark contrast to last week's Chelsea-Liverpool match, certainly.

posted by holden at 02:27 PM on February 16, 2008

I think Tuesday against Inter is the real test for Benitez. The Italians are on a very strong run, moved 11 clear of Roma at the top of Serie A today, but (like today) this is a home match and the Reds must either win 1-0 or by at least two goals; if not either H&G sell to Dubai or Benitez is done. If the latter, we may not see it until May 15 but this week will have been the deciding factor. Etagloh, I don't think it's a question of one game but the very disappointing past 12 months. After starting strong with Champions League and FA Cup trophies in years one and two, other managers have begun to catch on and unravel Rafa's rotation policies. As he had a huge transfer budget last summer and got in a large number of quality signings, there is no question that injuries aside the Reds are the team he put together and must live with the results.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:18 PM on February 16, 2008

billsaysthis: my point was simply that you don't sack a manager for losing a classic cup upset. They happen. They rarely follow the script as well as this one -- goalie on loan making his debut, underdog comeback, rearguard action, last-minute winner -- but when the fates deal one out, you just have to accept your supporting role. Sacking Benitez now would simply reinforce the belief that Merkin & Merkin don't understand the game. The CL is another matter: that's an obvious tipping point.

posted by etagloh at 08:48 PM on February 16, 2008

Well done, Tykes. They should have had a penalty, so justice was done with the winner. I'm not sure Rafa is the problem, or even a problem. He won them a European Cup, so he still has some credit in the bank. I don't think changing him won't make that much of a difference. What Liverpool probably needs is someone who can actually score goals, and a bit of support for Agger and Carragher at the back (when they are fit). I just can't see a title winning team playing Crouch and Kuyt up front.

posted by owlhouse at 11:49 PM on February 17, 2008

The Reds brought in central defensive cover last month, apparently a quality player called Skrtel. And Torres has scored the goals but after being hurt for Spain I don't see how he could be risked against Barnsley. The reason I think Benitez has about worn his welcome--again, the Champions League being the final test--is the constant rotation policy that prevents real gelling among the best players. This is especially true of the midfield where selling Sissoko wasn't enough to break the logjamb now that Leiva is getting playing time. Consider how, other than Gerrard, the playing time at the remaining three MF spots is shared among: Babel, Kewell, Mascherano, Alonso, Leiva, Pennant, Benayoun and sometimes Riise or Aurellio. I was a bit surprised that with the rumors about Crouch the whole month of January he didn't move on (not that I want him to leave), to allow Babel to switch into the forward rotation. My guess is that with Voronin and Alonso hurt Benitez didn't want to take the risk but he probably should have, relying on Sebastian Leto or Nabil El Zhar as emergency cover.

posted by billsaysthis at 07:33 PM on February 18, 2008

Skrtel played his first game for Liverpool in an FA tie, I think against Havant & Waterlooville, where he promptly scored an own goal. A cruel, cruel start which I'm sure would damage anyone's confidence, especially going into the pressure-cooker second half of the season. But I have to agree w/ Bill that the rotation policy is great ... when it works. But it hasn't. And I'd have to point the finger where Bill puts it - it just hasn't let the team gel. It hasn't let the players get comfortable in a specific position. It hasn't let players get to know how their teammates will play, where they'll run to, what their rhythms are, who is going to pass to them. Also, even if you played well doesn't mean you won't get pulled from the next game. I think the low point was that surreal moment when we were down 3-1 to Reading in the league match, and Rafa pulled Torres, Gerrard and some other first-choice player off, with 30 minutes left, essentially saying "We're done. I'm more concerned about the upcoming Champions League match." Now, contrast that to Wenger throwing on Adebayor and Flamini, even with them being 3-0 or 4-0 down in the FA cup match against ManU this weekend. At least he tried. At least he showed some pride. What does Rafa's tactical decisions say to his team?

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:56 AM on February 19, 2008

Terrific game. This is why we love the FA Cup. I'm not sure if it was much of a surprise given Liverpool's form, but well done to Barnsley on a deserved result.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 02:21 PM on February 19, 2008

I guess Rafa showed me (and Inter Milan) today. Go Reds!

posted by worldcup2002 at 11:50 PM on February 19, 2008

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