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Liverpool 1-2 Lyon: Benitez Faces A Massive Uphill Battle

rafael benitez Liverpool 1 2 Lyon: Benitez Faces A Massive Uphill Battle

Liverpool supporters talk about European nights at Anfield, but it was French side Lyon who “did a Liverpool” Tuesday night with an injury-time goal to seal a 2-1 come from behind victory on Merseyside.

The win for Lyon was a bit of a harsh result for the Reds especially since Rafael Benitez’s side played far better than they did against Sunderland. However, that was until Lyon equalized in the 72nd minute from a goal by Gonalons. Not surprisingly for Liverpool, the equalizer for Lyon came from a corner kick and the defensive weaknesses were again exposed as several Liverpool players stood frozen watching Jose Pepe Reina pull off two impressive saves only for the third attempt on goal to sail in near the far post.

Prior to that goal, the man of the match was Lyon goalkeeper Lloris who pulled off several magnificent saves to limit Liverpool to the solitary goal. But for the final 20 minutes of the match, Lyon looked the team more likely to score so it was little surprise when Delgado popped up near the far post to slot the winner during injury time.

For Rafael Benitez, he is in a whole lot of trouble right now. His players aren’t coming out on to the pitch all fired up and determined to win. Even bottom placed Portsmouth look more committed to fight for a win than the Liverpool players do right now, which is a troubling sign that even the players have lost faith in Benitez.

Other than injuries, the other issue Benitez finds himself grappling with is player selection. For example, based on Tuesday night’s performance, the only four players who gave 100% and were fighting for Liverpool were Dirk Kuyt, Jose Pepe Reina, Yossi Benayoun and Fabio Aurelio. The other players were invisible. Where was Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and David Ngog — just to name a few?

The player selection issue is not what players to start, but which players Benitez should drop. The challenge that Benitez faces is that he can’t afford to drop many players because who is he going to replace them with?

A continued worrying sign for Liverpool is that they’re impotent where it matters, up front. I understood Benitez’s decision to take Benayoun off the pitch because he felt the Israeli international was getting tired, but even a tired Benayoun has more skill in his left foot than Andriy Voronin.

Really, this Liverpool side is in such a shambles right now. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see who in this Liverpool side are willing to stand up and be counted against Manchester United at Anfield. Kuyt will give his 100% as he always does, but other than the Dutchman and a couple of other players, the spine in this team is incredibly weak. On top of that, Gerrard and Torres are out. This could end up being a very embarrassing day in Liverpool on Sunday if Manchester United play to their upmost abilities.

To me, this Liverpool side has regressed and doesn’t seem to be improving. How is it that regular viewers of Liverpool can notice so many areas that need to be fixed but nothing is done? The most obvious example is Rafael Benitez’s insistence that Liverpool use zonal marking on corner kicks. But time after time again, we have seen how this hasn’t worked and has lost Liverpool vital points. Instead of being so stubborn, why doesn’t Benitez admit his mistake and have his team settle on man-to-man marking during corners?

Liverpool’s other obvious weakness has been up front and finding a suitable player to step in for Fernando Torres when he’s injured or needs relief. Robbie Keane, despite a poor start at Anfield, would have been the perfect player to fit into that role. But even though things didn’t work out with Keane, there are plenty of strikers at other clubs who are far more dangerous than Ngog and Voronin combined.

Speaking of Torres and Gerrard, there are only so many times you can call on them for help before the well runs dry. Both players have pulled off so many late winners that you have to argue that they’ve been carrying the team for too long and that the rest of the players have gotten comfortable in allowing the dynamic duo to bail them out time after time.

You would think that out of Liverpool’s 46 players in their squad, they would have more depth in terms of quality. But, no. Take a look at the list if you don’t believe me and tell me what the heck many of these footballers are doing on Liverpool’s books. In comparison, Manchester United has 38 players in their first team squad and there is far more depth there than at Anfield.

The one thing about Liverpool is that when you least expect them to pull off a incredible victory, they do it. Even with Liverpool’s renowned ability to pull off miracles, a win against Manchester United on Sunday will be one of Rafael Benitez’s greatest victories just when Liverpool need it the most.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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26 Responses to Liverpool 1-2 Lyon: Benitez Faces A Massive Uphill Battle

  1. sucka99 says:

    well, you knew this was coming. their window slammed shut with the “facts” speech last year (or more the expected media overreaction to it) and now the team is falling apart. instability in the ownership, then with the transfers, now showing up on the pitch. this is the result.

  2. ngog says:

    Today, Liverpool started without Torres, Johnson, Riera, and Aquilani, then lost Gerrard (for 65+ minutes). Rafa also decided not start Skrtel, Aurelio, or Babel. Benitez has done so poorly with personnel that they have no one to replace the injured starters and Benitez still mangles the starter decisions anyways.

    Honestly, what is this guy doing as manager? Ngog, Lucas, Kelly don’t belong a starters for West Brom or Portsmouth right now and yet there they are featuring for a Reds’ side desperate for a home win over Lyon.

    More importantly, Old Man Carragher is done. Finished. Go back and watch the last goal and notice how he is the reason there is a player left alone on the weak side to score at the end of the game. Everyone else marked a man and were in good position, yet Carragher got tired and left his man and ended up in no man’s land doing nothing but watching the goal hit the back of the net.

  3. TJ says:

    I don’t know what game some of the people commenting were watching, but Martin Kelly played fantastically. Easily the Man of the Match for Liverpool, although Fabio did very well for himself.

    He’s just 19, and this could mark the beginning of the end for Carra if he keeps playing at the level he displayed today.

  4. ngog says:

    regardless of Kelly’s performance, is his first minute of play for the Liverpool team best suited for an important game like today? he hasn’t played a minute in the Premier League and you’d think it would be a better idea to get him back into the swing of things against a Bolton or Blackburn and not Lyon. Like I said, regardless of performance.

    The one striker routine may work well with Torres who they want to be in open space, but it doesn’t work with N’gog. Again, the lack of change by Benitez in addition to his other problems just leads to reason that he should be sacked immediately. But who will make that decision?

  5. I’m not sure what people expect. Lyon did better this summer in the transfer market than Liverpool adding a lot of firepower starting with Lisandro Lopez right on down throught the lineup. Govou has gotten healthy, while Torres, Gerard, etc are injured.

    That Lyon struggled is a credit to Liverpool’s grit and Anfield’s impact. Give the quality of the two teams on the pitch, when Gerrard left injured the match should have been over by LFC fought like heck. Give them some credit.

  6. Given all the media hype today (wednesday) and following Gareth Southgates (apparently ‘hard decisison’ sacking), surely the Liverpool outlook for Benitez is now rather gloomy. Personally, I think it’s a minor wobble, but don’t the anfield faithful expect,nay, deserve better?

  7. Chris from Texas says:

    The problems over the last year are coming to a head and it will either make or break Liverpool. People bemoan the lack of strikers, but who was Benitez supposed to buy? After getting Johnson (thanks to Portsmouth still owing Liverpool for Crouch) and Aquilani, he was told he didn’t have any funds available. This is interesting, because the figures don’t add up. Especially when you consider the other players Liverpool sold during the summer.

    This summer was the time for Hicks and Gillet to invest in squad depth, which is something needed in the premier league. Look at this year, Tottenham, Man City and Sunderland outspent Liverpool and it has made a clear deference. Not all of the blame should be on the owners, Benitez should have let Babel leave and brought in Cattermole and Negredo instead of Aquilani.

    Injuries really have undone Liverpool this year. Agger and Aurelio are solid, but have both barely returned to action. El Nino, Gerrard and Johnson are all out injured, and hopefully one of them will be ready by Sunday.

    I have always said Liverpool are best when things go wrong, and hopefully, that is still the case on Sunday. I know this is hopeful, but remember when Liverpool were considered out of the Champions League in 2005? What happened?

    Istanbul.

    If they win Sunday it could lead to something amazing, but if they lose, it will be a complete disaster.

    • Keane says:

      Benitez is an incompetent man manager. He had Crouch – didn’t want to play him, so Crouch left. Brought Keane in to replace him, played him out of position, and destroyed his confidence, a recurring theme with Benitez, e.g. Babel), and returned him to Tottenham. Now he is wasting Voronin and Babel on the bench. Had he managed his players better Liverpool would have either Crouch or Keane with Babel or Voronin to weather this storm. As it is, Liverpool are a relegation level team without those two. He’s a good tactical manager, but not be able to pick a proper line-up has caught up to him.

      • Raatzie says:

        Amazing how neither Crouch nor Keane was good enough for Liverpool, but both are good enough for Spurs (Keane starting in tandem w/Defoe, Crouchigol as cover).

        If Liverpool had either one last week, they take at least a point in each of the last two matches. Not enough by themselves (cough MIDFIELD cough), but a start.

  8. LS says:

    Gaffer,

    Small typo in the post “the equalizer for Lens” — surely you mean Lyon ?? :)

    I totally agree with your point about squad depth. Liverpool have been very active in the transfer market but the results are just not there, surely that must be placed on the manager ? Another point worth questioning is their academy setup…how would Ngog or Babel have progressed if they’d gone to Arsenal?

  9. Gaz says:

    As someone noted above, Liverpool was without Torres, Johnson, Rierra, and Gerrard (plus more – but we’ll leave it at that). It was an unlucky result but considering the team they fielded – I don’t see it as much of a disappointment.

    At the very least, we’ll still be in the top 4 and we’ll still be in Europe. Why? Because when we do have our top lineup, we’re probably one of the best attacking sides in Europe. Just ask the other top 4 teams about the results from last season.

    Am I happy we don’t have more depth? No. However, put most sides out without their star midfield, forward, and defensive attacker and you have a problem (for instance, Chelsea up against this Lyon side and take away Drogba, A. Cole, and Lampard would struggle too).

    So get your shots in now – Gerrard and Torres will be back. :)

  10. brn442 says:

    This was in the script, I said it time and time again. Liverpool has two recognized goal scorers – just one of which, is a striker. Liverpool are exactly where they should be.

    • Gaz says:

      I hope my sources are right here… otherwise it’ll mess up my entire argument that follows. :)

      First, Benayoun and Kuyt have the same amount of goals as Gerrard. This is kind of counter to what you’re saying.

      I don’t see Liverpool having this “two man team” problem more or less than any other teams.

      Take Chelsea as a comparison again:
      EPL GOALS 09/10
      Torres Liverpool 8
      Benayoun Liverpool 3
      Gerrard Liverpool 3
      Kuyt Liverpool 3
      TOTAL 17

      Drogba Chelsea 7
      Anelka Chelsea 3
      Ballack Chelsea 3
      Cole,A Chelsea 2
      TOTAL 15

  11. Gaz says:

    Manchester United
    EPL GOALS
    Wayne Rooney 6
    Dimitar Berbatov 3
    Darren Fletcher 2
    Micheal Owen 2
    TOTAL 13

    Arsenal
    EPL GOALS
    Cesc Fábregas 4
    Robin Van Persie 4
    Thomas Vermaelen 4
    Andrei Arshavin 3
    TOTAL 17

    I’ve heard this criticism of Liverpool only having two goal scorers but I think that these numbers don’t back that claim up.

    Arsenal, by the way, is probably the best in this department – does that make them a better performing team than the other top 3, however?

    • Anon says:

      The point is that the offense flows through Torres and Gerrard. Can you find stats to see how many goals are scored with and without those players on the pitch (how about for Manure and Chelski)?

      I think Manure is in a similar position as Liverpool since they lost Ronaldo, but top to bottom, Manure is more talented than Liverpool. Same for Chelski. Even delusion Liverpool fans must see this. And I am a fan of any of big 4; I equally enjoy watching all 4 lose. :)

      • Gaz says:

        No – I don’t have those stats. :)

        I’m not arguing that Liverpool is more talented than anyone! Again, I just don’t think that Liverpool is the only team (even only top 4 team) that relies on one or two “star” players. Even though it’s true of many teams – it only seems to come up with Liverpool.

  12. CA_backpacker says:

    Rafa again demonstrates his total lack of understanding his players and their best positions. And his ego…which prevents him from changing course when something obviously isn’t working (zone marking, for example). And without the players available to play the formations he favors, does he switch to a more conventional 4-4-2? Nope, time to pound square pegs into round holes.

    My Reds are done, we’re soon to be out of the CL, and although I don’t think we’re a relegation team as Keane suggested above, I do think we’ll be lucky to finish in the top half of the table. Even when we have our full squad, there are a LOT of other teams in the Premiership outside the rest of the Big Four that look better than us offensively and defensively.

    • Keane says:

      “My Reds are done, we’re soon to be out of the CL, and although I don’t think we’re a relegation team as Keane suggested above, I do think we’ll be lucky to finish in the top half of the table.” Bottom half team means potentially subject to relegation. A little bit of (bad) luck can make the difference. Rafa seems to have used up all of his for the time being.

  13. Gaz says:

    That’s ridiculous – you two are worse than the the journalists trying to sell papers.

    Think about what you’re saying here – let’s say you assume Liverpool will be 11th (you actually think worse than that if I’m reading correctly, though). Can you really think of 10 teams in the EPL that will honestly amount more points than even a shite-looking Liverpool?

    • Keane says:

      Absoulutely! But to be clear, I said without Torres and Gerrard. That would mean they’d miss the entire rest of the season. If they do, yeah, I can see them fighting off relegation.

      The 10 ahead of them without Torres and Gerrard: Chelsea, ManU, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Man City, Tottenham, and Everton, Fulham, Sunderland, and Everton. That’s 10 ahead of them. Stoke, Blackburn and Wigan would be close if Liverpool is without Torres and Gerrard.

      But I doubt Torres and Gerrard will miss the entire season. With even 1 of them, Liverpool shoot into the 5-10. That’s how good those 2 are.

    • CA_backpacker says:

      How is it ridiculous? We are in 8th place right now, and that is with Gerrard and Torres in most of the games so far. Are you so sure both of them will be around all season? The point many have made, and I agree with, is that we aren’t deep at all, and one stretch with Torres out like we had last year is all it would take. Plus, even with The Dynamic Duo in the game, the Reds are still obviously not clicking. Are you pinning your hopes on Aquilani to replace Alonso? And we still have Rafa’s inane decisions in terms of starting lineups, positions and formations, and dubious substitution choices (yeah, take out Benayoun, the only goal scorer for Voronin…lol)

  14. Dave Trotter says:

    First of all, I am surprised that I really haven’t heard “this was a shock” or “Liverpool should have won this game”. As a Ligue 1 follower, I am glad to see that our teams are finally getting some respect.

    As far as injuries, Liverpool weren’t the only ones banged up. Lyon were without their start midfielder, and their second-most expensive offseason signing, Michel Bastos. Also in the midfield we were missing Mathieu Bodmer. We were also without one of our best defenders Jean-Alain Boumsong, and fellow defender Francois Clerc. In fact Lyon is so banged up in the back, Jeremy Toulalan has been playing on the back line for Lyon, and doing a great job at it.

    On top of that, Lisandro is coming off an injury, which explains him being taken off late in the game.

    So, yes, Liverpool had injuries, but so did Lyon. And, yes, they were big players that were missing the game. Yours were just more high-profile scorers, while most of Lyon’s were defensive players.

    But I am getting tired of some people acting like this was some ‘big upset’. Lyon is one of the best teams in Europe right now. The only other teams that beat them in the offseason transfer market were Man City and RM. And, as far as I am concerned, Olympique Lyonnais has the best midfield in all of football. Toulalan, Bodmer (who also plays defense), Kallstrom, Govou, Pjanic, Bastos, Makoun and Delgado give Lyon one of the best, and deepest, midfields.

    As Liverpool are learning, and Lyon is proving, depth can make or break a team. Because Lyon had depth and can interchange players quite well, they were victorious.

  15. Jorge Curioso says:

    If French clubs actually start winning some silverware, they’ll get more respect. In the meantime, yes, a French side beating Liverpool at Anfield is an upset.

    Even this Liverpool side.

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