Mark down Monday as a pivotal night in the race for fourth, the lucrative final Champions League spot, in the Premier League. It was probably the day Liverpool blew its chance. [ad#as2]
A disorganized and utterly poor Liverpool lost to slumping Wigan 1-0 away, and long-term, it may cost Spanish boss Rafael Benitez his job. For reasons only he knows, Benitez refused to start expensive summer signing Alberto Aquilani yet again. The Italian came on late in the second half and injected a little life into the Reds, along with the fit-again Glen Johnson.
Dirk Kuyt, perhaps the hardest working player in the Premier League, made a mistake that led to the only goal in the first half, but in truth, inspirational captain Steven Gerrard was out of sorts, normally reliable striker Fernando Torres squandered several chances, and midfielder Lucas Leiva was his usual self. As in, he didn’t do much. Gerrard could also be in hot water after appearing to tell referee Andre Marriner to stick it.
Former Wigan manager Paul Jewell rightly ripped into Liverpool.
“There are ways to lose, and last night was no way to lose,” Jewell told the Daily Mail. “Liverpool can’t go to Wigan and get outplayed like that. As a team Liverpool are a million miles from being as good as the club.”
Here’s the scenario for Benitez and his troops. They lie sixth with 48 points, one behind Tottenham, currently in fourth, and Manchester City. The problem for Liverpool fans is Tottenham has one game in hand and City two. Further, Aston Villa, seventh with 45 points, has played three fewer games than Liverpool.
“We have to show more character if we want to finish in the top four,” Benitez, who has bought a huge number of flops in his time, told reporters.
After a breather, seemingly, against Portsmouth at home next Monday, Liverpool travels to Manchester United. City’s next six fixtures, meanwhile, are all winnable. Similarly, Tottenham could conceivably win its next four league games, against Blackburn, Stoke, Portsmouth and Sunderland.
Yes, barring a minor miracle, Liverpool will be playing in the Europa League for the second straight year.