Wednesday 13 December 2017

Benitez blasts Rovers’ style as Reds triumph

Gerrard 20, Torres 44
Andrews pen 39

Tim Rich

ON the final whistle, they shook hands with the briefest of touches and then hostilities between Rafael Benitez and Sam Allardyce resumed.

It had been a close enough contest for there to be no danger of the Liverpool manager crossing his hands to indicate the match was over after 33 minutes, which had so incensed Allardyce when Blackburn last visited Anfield.

There had been five Blackburn bookings and Benitez thought there should have been a sixth when Pascal Chimbonda’s studs thudded into Maxi Rodriguez’s chest. In addition, the Liverpool manager felt Steven Nzonzi ought to have been dismissed for wrestling Lucas Leiva to the ground.

Allardyce considered that Blackburn had created more chances and only failed to secure at least a point because they lacked a goalscorer with the natural brilliance of Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres.

“It doesn’t matter, we won,” was Benitez’s retort when that was put to him. “We prefer to play football. If they play the way they play under this manager, it is difficult but it is their decision. When you have won you don’t have to think about how you played.”

Benitez had clearly been angered by Allardyce’s suggestion that Liverpool had resorted to crude tactics to haul themselves back into contention for the final Champions League slot, pointing out they had earned six bookings in the arid goalless draw at Manchester City.

“We have four or five players bleeding because of studs,” said Benitez. “We can win on the pitch but some people have to talk before and after the game because they find it difficult to do a football job. I am sure he is a model for football all around the world. I am sure Barcelona are thinking about copying their style of football.”

For his part, Allardyce refused to answer an inquiry about whether the police had spoken to him about El-Hadji Diouf’s gestures to the crowd after the final whistle, calling it “a diabolical question”. Allardyce pointed out that Liverpool had committed 25 fouls without being punished with a card.

He had done considerably better than most Blackburn managers here. Not since 1993, when Kenny Dalglish’s regime at Ewood Park had eclipsed the Liverpool of his successor, Graeme Souness, had they taken three points at Anfield. “If we had possessed a goalscorer, we would have won,” he said. “It is not often you come to Liverpool and create more chances than them but we don’t have a goalscorer and they have Gerrard and Torres.”

In this Allardyce was correct. Had Pepe Reina not dived over Keith Andrews’ spot-kick, awarded for handball by Jamie Carragher, Blackburn would even have missed their penalty. Gerrard’s bloody-minded determination was emphasised by the fact that he passed no fewer than three times in the move that led to Liverpool’s opener. Torres, even if he was playing his first game since Liverpool’s humbling in the FA Cup at Reading six weeks ago, would have devoured some of the opportunities Blackburn created. The way he seized on Rodriguez’s low cross should give his manager hope for the remaining 10 games.

However, once more a Liverpool victory depended on two men who are as precious to Benitez as the partnership of John Toshack and Kevin Keegan were to Bill Shankly. And of all the accusations levelled at Liverpool under the Spaniard, the one that his regime is unhealthily dependent on these two world-class footballers has been the hardest to deny.

Liverpool: (4-4-1-1) Reina; Mascherano, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio (Insua 38); Rodriguez, Gerrard, Leiva; Benayoun (Babel 81); Kuyt; Torres (Ngog 90). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (g), Aquilani, Kelly, Ayala,

Blackburn Rovers: (4-1-4-1) Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Givet, Olsson (Chimbonda 51); Nzonzi (Grella 60); Diouf, Andrews, Pedersen, Hoilett (Roberts 65); Kalinic. Substitutes not used: Brown (g), Emerton, Dunn, Di Santo.

Booked: Blackburn: Salgado, Olsson, Nzonzi, Kalinic, Diouf.

Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Kuyt.

Attendance: 42,795.

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport