Burnley hand out lesson in priorities for Benitez

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The Independent Football

Tony Grant's phone would not stop ringing and, frankly, he was happy to take every call. The Burnley midfielder had supported Everton, played for the club, his parents still lived on Merseyside and now he was savouring helping knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup. "I'm a Blue and have been brought up a Blue so for me there is nothing sweeter," he remarked yesterday, still drinking it all in.

The way in which Burnley achieved their victory may have been fortunate - there are quite a few own goals but none like Djimi Traoré's which saw him stop the ball, stumble through almost 360 degrees and then back-heel into his own net - but it was deserved. In the first half Liverpool were thoroughly outplayed and only when Milan Baros was introduced to give more fight to the collection of academy graduates, stiffened with Igor Biscan and Sami Hyypia, did they threaten.

"We more than deserved it," Grant reflected. "Playing in it and then watching it again afterwards, you could never say they were the better team and they didn't cause us any problems. They are in the semi-finals of the League Cup and people must have told Rafael Benitez that that one is regarded as the lesser one, so he should have realised what the FA Cup means in England."

Standing in the scrum of the press room at Turf Moor, Benitez did not look like he understood. His argument that the youngsters had done well at Tottenham in the Carling Cup and deserved their chance here failed to show any understanding that the FA Cup dwarfs its sister or any realisation of what the backlash might be if those tactics came unstuck, especially in the wake of Saturday's defeat to Manchester United.

This was Liverpool's biggest humiliation in the competition since Graeme Souness's ageing, disintegrating side lost at home to Bristol City in 1994. Curiously, that match, like the game with Burnley, was also abandoned and replayed, then because of floodlight failure rather than a sodden pitch.

Arsène Wenger, whose squad is roughly the same strength as Liverpool's, will see his side remembered not just as a glittering force in Premiership football but as arguably the greatest of all FA Cup teams. Wenger has always respected the competition and since 1997 Arsenal have only once failed to reach the semi-finals.

On the Kop they will hope that the newly signed Mauricio Pellegrino's analysis of Benitez is correct - that at Valencia he came into his own in the second half of the season with his demand for physical fitness and the shrewdness of his squad rotation. The trouble is that with so many injuries, Liverpool's scope for rotation is very limited.

While Benitez lamented the fact that he did not have a squad equipped to play four competitions, Grant pointed out with feeling that realistically Liverpool this season could only have won the two domestic cups. At Anfield in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final against Watford, fielding virtually a full-strength side, their hopes were salvaged once more by Steven Gerrard.

On Tuesday night, the Liverpool captain was a spectator, perhaps wondering what was the use of continually rescuing a club that without him seems incapable of saving itself.

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