Rafa Benitez and Liverpool's Season Hits New Low
On the 50th anniversary of Bill Shankly's first game as Liverpool manager and Jamie Carragher's 600th appearance for the Reds, Liverpool's season went from bad to worse.
On a bitterly cold lunchtime kick off, the Reds were beaten by the bottom team in the league.
In a decent first 30 minutes, it appeared that the Reds, playing in white, would capitalize on their midweek victory and make it two wins on the bounce.
And with a home game next against Wolves, a confidence-boosting run of wins seemed on the cards.
But once again, as has so often been the case this season with Liverpool, they have failed to use any springboard they give themselves and not pushed on.
Prior to Pompey's first goal, Liverpool never looked solid on defense. Carragher making a landmark appearance was once again shaky as was his partner Agger. Johnson back at Fratton Park also did not seem to be up for the fight.
In fact, it was Johnson's tame header away, that presented Portsmouth their first goal. Reina was beaten at his near post by a shot of such venomous power that little blame can be attributed to him.
What followed was a collapse of Liverpool's composure and they pushed the self destruct button when Mascherano was given a straight red card for a reckless challenge.
The referee waited until Masherano, injured in the tackle, was back on his feet and promptly gave the Liverpool enforcer his marching orders.
While the Argentine was on the deck receiving treatment, the signs were not good, and it appeared that Benitez anticipated the worst as the referee and fourth official conferred.
Liverpool came out in the second half, seemingly still not having gained their composure and played with little fluidity or creativity. They carved out few real openings and Torres' frustration at not being given any chances led to him getting yellow carded for petulance.
With no real 'Plan B,' Benitez threw on Benayoun for the poorly performing Dossena in the hope that the diminutive Israeli could provide some spark to the otherwise insipid Liverpool team out on the pitch.
But it went from bad to worse in the closing stages when Agger was beaten at the corner flag and from the ensuing cross, Carragher was smartly turned and another shot from an impossible angle beat Reina, this time at the far post.
Liverpool's misery was complete. On a freezing cold afternoon, the Reds were beaten by the bottom team in the league. Any hopes of building on the earlier victory evaporated, and the Liverpool players rushed for the sanctuary of the dressing room.
Come tomorrow morning, there will be nowhere for Rafa Benitez and his players to hide, for whatever other results there will be this weekend, the back pages will once again be monopolized by Liverpool and for all the wrong reasons.
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