Sunday, February 24, 2008 by Paul Grech
Rafael Benitez will feel that he can never win. If he changes the team, he is accused that he is rotating too much; when he doesn’t he’ll be told that he should have played other players.
Against Middlesbrough, he kept the same starting eleven as the one that had defeated Inter Milan in midweek barring Jamie Carragher who was missing through suspension. Seeing how the game proceeded, however, there will inevitably be those who question the decision to keep out Xabi Alonso particularly after a lacklustre display by Lucas.
Not at fault at either of the two goals, Pepe Reina’s handling throughout the game was faultless and as always he exuded confidence. In the centre of defence, Sami Hyppia had another good game without doing anything particularly spectacular.
Ryan Babbel seems to be earning Benitez’s trust and he had another decent game today. It was surprising when he was taken off. Javier Mascherano was slightly below par in the first half but improved immeasurably in the second. Confidence in his own abilities is returning for Dirk Kuyt who worked extremely hard as always but also put in some excellent moves.
Man of the match obviously goes to Fernando Torres who scored a terrific hat-trick and could have had even more.
Steve Finnan, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio weren’t particularly bad but neither were they good enough. The same applies to Steven Gerrard, despite almost scoring towards the end. Worst of all Liverpool players on the pitch was Lucas Leiva, who runs a lot but his passing – especially in the final third – often leaves a lot to be desired.
Every time that John Arne Riise touched the ball, it went straight to a Middlesbrough player. As always Yossi Benayoun tried hard to influence the game and his skill on the ball can unsettle players. Peter Crouch came on too late in the game to make a difference.
Category Good game - bad game