Benitez loses patience with away failings

Manchester City 1 Liverpool 0
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The Independent Online

Rafael Benitez cannot always express himself in English. "It is difficult," he will say when he is searching for the right word, but one message was communicated with chilling clarity in the bowels of the City of Manchester Stadium. "Maybe we need more experience," he said.

Rafael Benitez cannot always express himself in English. "It is difficult," he will say when he is searching for the right word, but one message was communicated with chilling clarity in the bowels of the City of Manchester Stadium. "Maybe we need more experience," he said.

It was a warning that even the precious egos in the Liverpool dressing-room would understand. Their Spanish manager is getting thoroughly fed up with players who pick and choose when they want to play. And unless they change, they will be out.

Because in terms of experience there was nothing wrong with Liverpool. The team was sprinkled with seasoned internationals, yet the lions who had torn at Juventus last Tuesday were so meek against Manchester City it would be an insult to lambs to make the comparison. Benitez, normally the most mild of men, was seething.

He would not follow the lead offered him when he was asked if this was the angriest he had been as a manager, but he was indignant that Liverpool had thrown away a chance to go into fourth place in the Premiership and to put pressure on Everton in the slog (race is surely inappropriate given the fallibilities of those involved) towards Champions' League qualification.

Plenty of possession was squandered with passing so poor it was shocking and, for all their bluster, they forced only one block out of the ordinary from David James while their own goalkeeper, Scott Carson, had to make a series of demanding saves. For that reason, if for no other, because the home side were also pretty lame, City deserved their last-minute winner through Kiki Musampa.

As the goal had stemmed from a Liverpool throw-in inside the City half, the Liverpool manager had plenty of ammunition to fling at his changes. "I'm very disappointed," he said, which for Benitez is the equivalent of Sir Alex Ferguson reaching for the hair dryer on high. "We can't lose games like this. I keep saying the same things and they have to learn. Maybe it's necessary to draw, maybe it's necessary to keep the ball, maybe it's necessary to play with a high tempo.

"In the Champions' League we have the right mentality, but you have to have that same mentality for in the Premiership, particularly in away games. You can't say, 'This is an easy game', because it's not true."

The defeat means Liverpool have lost nine away games, which is bottom, not top, four form but Benitez's disappointment was Stuart Pearce's joy because the caretaker manager had secured his first win, which is bound to come into the equation when City make a permanent appointment to replace Kevin Keegan. Pearce denied that he had been appointed already but he did concede that the board "are hoping I'm successful and make a good manager. I'm pleased we got that result, as much as anyone for the chairman, who is under pressure and who has put a total amateur in charge of his football club.

"Over the last few years people have said to me, 'You've got no experience, that's why we can't take you on', which I totally understand, so it's a big gamble for this club. I'll do the best I can and, hopefully, it will keep me in a job beyond the summer."

The "amateur" is doing fine. It is the professionals at Liverpool who are causing concern.

Goal: Musampa (90) 1-0.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Onuoha (Mills, 67), Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Reyna, Barton, Bosvelt (Croft, 74), Musampa; Sibierski (B Wright-Phillips, 84), Fowler. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Negouai.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Carson; Finnan, Carragher, Pellegrino, Warnock; Luis Garica (Smicer, 68), Biscan, Gerrard, Riise (Traoré, 84); Morientes (Welsh, 78), Le Tallec. Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Hyypia.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Manchester City Barton; Liverpool Carragher.

Man of the match: Dunne.

Attendance: 47,203.

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