Rafa Benitez on the edge after Liverpool lose again
Defeat by Lyon at Anfield last night must surely be the last straw for the Spanish manager
Liverpool 1 Lyon 2. Well at least nothing irrevocable happened to Liverpool's season last night. The defeat to the French league leaders may have left Rafa Benitez's six points off the pace in Group E with just three points, but the Anfield outfit could still mathematically turn things around in the Champions League. Beyond that unlikely ray of sunshine, it's fair to say that the mood at Anfield is now black as night after their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions.
Already denied Fernando Torres by an injury the Spaniard picked up during international duty, Benitez lost England defender Glen Johnson before kick off yesterday and was forced to throw youngster Martin Kelly into action on the right side of defence for his full Liverpool debut. Worse still came when Steven Gerrard succumbed after 25 minutes to the adductor muscle niggle that he too picked up while representing his country, forcing Rafa to throw on Fabio Aurelio in his place.
That Liverpool ended the first half leading 1-0 is testament to the spirit and courage that remains at the club. The visitors started the game the liveliest, and could have easily taken the lead when Pepe Reina denied Lisandro Lopez from a weak header on nine minutes. The hosts pulled themselves together and actually became more combative after Gerrard's exit, and missed a golden opportunity to go one up when David Ngog had a strong shot saved by Hugo Loris.
Six minutes later Aurelio marauded down the right flank to play in Yossi Benayoun, one of the few players to have burnished his reputation this season at Anfield. The Israeli winger fired home via a deflection to send the Kop into raptures and give some faint hope to his manager. There was even the chance for a further goal before half time, when Kelly and Aurelio combined only for the Brazilian's header to be tipped over the bar.
The opening sallies of the second half demonstrated the lack of penetration that Liverpool possess when their front rank players are out of action, as the central midfield partnership of Lucas Leiva and Javier Mascherano struggled to provide any spark, and gradually the Lyon attacks grew in number. Eventually the visitors equalised through substitute Maxime Gonalons, who got the ball in the net after the Liverpool defence repeatedly failed to clear it.
Worse was yet to come for Benitez, as he was jeered when he replaced the livewire Benayoun with Andriy Voronin, one of the many signings of the Spanish manager who has failed to win the crowd over. Cesar Delgado's late winner compounded the gloom on the bench and in the stands, and leaves everyone concerned with Liverpool Football Club asking: what now? ·
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