Monday, 17 August 2009

Media Round-Up

Well I predicted the word 'Rant' would be used by the press this season to describe Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's unhappiness with an incident and it has only taken the opening weekend for it to be used for the first time this season. The decision by referee Phil Dowd not to award the Reds a penalty for a blatant push on Andriy Voronin in the box and a subsequent hand ball from Assou-Ekotto left assistant Sammy Lee so unhappy that his exchange with fourth official Stuart Attwell ended with referee Dowd sending Lee off. This series of events were of course brought up by the waiting journalist at the post match press conference who were well aware of the new rules imposed by the Premier League, intended to stop managers speaking out against individual officials.

"Asked about Dowd, Benítez remained silent, but took out his glasses and peered from a distance through the lenses, making it abundantly clear that he felt the Staffordshire official needed a visual aid," said the Telegraph. The Liverpool manager added: "We had a meeting the other day, they said we cannot speak about the referees as a person, about the decisions, but everybody could see today the situation."

"I think everyone could see there was a penalty, especially to Voronin," added Benítez. "The third one, you could excuse, you can say that the hand was to the ball or the ball was to the hand. But the other one was so clear that it was unbelievable."

Asked if it was possible to win two penalties away from home, Benítez added: "No, with this referee I knew that this was impossible."

Speaking about 26-year-old forth official, Stuart Attwell and Lee's dismissal, Benítez said: "The fourth official is too young. I don't know how old he is but maybe he needs to calm down a bit."

The article by John Ley ran with the headline: "Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez cannot resist referee rant after defeat to Tottenham"

The Guardian described the incident with Lee as: "The non-award for the Assou-Ekotto handball shout brought the red mist down on Sammy Lee, the Liverpool assistant manager. He directed a volley of abuse at the fourth official Stuart Attwell, who is a relative rookie at the age of 26, and, at one point, Benítez had to step in to separate the pair. Lee could not remain quiet and, after continued protests, he was sent to the stands."

The article by David Hytner also quotes Benitez saying "The fourth official is a young referee and maybe he needs to calm down a bit," but adds:

"He is too young. Sammy will be banned from the touchline but the only thing with Sammy is that he cannot score goals for us. So hopefully Torres will do his job."

The story then says: This was an isolated moment of humour. There was little for Benítez to smile about and, in truth, his moans about the officials not only did him no credit but it obscured the consensus that Liverpool deserved nothing from the game."

The Times says: "Rafael Benítez last night launched a blistering attack on Phil Dowd, accusing the referee of an “unbelievable” decision that the Liverpool manager believed cost his team the chance to equalise in their 2-1 defeat away to Tottenham Hotspur."

The story by Tony Barrett also goes on to say: "the Spaniard risked censure by the Football Association by criticising both the fourth official and the match referee."

About the spectacle incident, the story says: When asked for his assessment of Dowd’s performance, Benítez calmly produced a case from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a pair of spectacles without uttering another word."

The article adds further quotes from Benitez, adding: "The fourth official is a young referee and maybe he needs to calm down a little bit. I don’t know why Sammy was sent off. The fourth official was too young. I don’t know how old he is, but I think he is too young.”

The story's headline is: "Rafael Benítez makes a spectacle of himself in referee rant"

Elsewhere in the Times, journalist Matt Hughes describes Benitez's spectacle gag as: "a wonderful piece of comedy." Speaking about the match in this story, Benitez said: “We need to improve passing the ball and keeping the ball in midfield,” Benítez said. “As a team we were not in control of possession in the first half so it was difficult for Gerrard and Torres. Alonso was not here, but we won a lot of games without him last year.”

However the writer says: "Benítez should also look to himself, however, because his desire to inject more urgency into Liverpool’s passing game degenerated into a frenzied mess. The Spaniard may have spent too much time listening to the Beatles during five years on Merseyside, because yesterday’s game plan was very much Helter Skelter."

Further on the story says: "Assou-Ekotto’s collision with Andriy Voronin, a substitute, in the 86th minute appeared innocuous and accidental, while claims that the French full back deliberately handled the ball in injury time seemed little more than desperate."

The story finishes on: "Benítez’s comments stemmed from frustration at his side’s first league defeat of the season coming three months earlier than a similar setback on this ground last year, as well as the growing realisation that after some controversial calls in the transfer market this summer he is a man under pressure. If Liverpool are unable to beat Stoke, who left Anfield with a goalless draw last season, Benítez really could have egg on his face."

The Independent is not so gentle with its assessment of the match and even implies that Benitez's position is already under threat, stating: "Eyes blazing, arms outstretched, Rafael Benitez appealed to the referee for a penalty in the dying moments of the game yesterday with the kind of fervour that put him in contravention of any number of Football Association and Premier League respect campaigns. One game gone and Liverpool are feeling the heat."

Adding further spice to a somewhat dull game, the story by Sam Wallace says: "Fernando Torres kicked out at Tom Huddlestone and Lucas Leiva weighed in with a shove to the Tottenham midfielder's chest. But when the whistle went for full-time the rest of the Premier League's big four had left Liverpool in the blocks."

About Benitez, the story says: "The FA's Respect campaign has already got its work cut out with Benitez." The article however does pause to state: "To his credit, Benitez did not try to pretend that Liverpool deserved to win just three months after they dispatched Spurs 3-1 at Anfield on the last day of the league season." It then says: "It is early days yet for Liverpool but, with the exception of the excellent Glen Johnson at right-back, there was little about them that could be argued was an improvement on last season." It also adds: "It would be inaccurate to put a defeat like this down to the absence of Xabi Alonso alone but his departure has undoubtedly made Liverpool weaker."

Elsewhere the same paper says: "Benitez conceded that his team had started poorly. "I think we didn't play well, especially the first half," he said. "We were much better in the second half, pushing harder, more options in the final third. Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these kind of games." It also says: "As for Benitez's verdict on Dowd, it may take the FA's finest legal minds to bring him to book."

Paul Brown writing for the Star opens his article by saying: "Raging Rafa Benitez claimed Liverpool were robbed by ref Phil Dowd at White Hart Lane." The story simply entitled: "RAFA'S RANT" adds: "Benitez was also furious with 26-year- old fourth official Stuart Attwell after he had Reds No.2 Sammy Lee sent from the bench to the stands in the dying stages for complaining.

Elsewhere in the Star the same writer says: "RAFA BENITEZ was hopping mad as shambolic Liverpool’s title charge started with a whimper yesterday." The story adds: "The Kop boss threw his arms in the air and jumped up and down on the touchline as referee Phil Dowd refused his side a late penalty at White Hart Lane." About the penalty claim the writer says: "Dowd was right not to punish Benoit Assou-Ekotto for a challenge on substitute Andriy Voronin with four minutes left."

The papers columnist Brian Woolnough in his 'Wooly's World' article says: "This wouldn't get Anfield a top 10 spot" and adds: "The pressure is right on Benitez after only one game. He can’t afford any more performances like this". The story also reminds us: "Liverpool are the only one of the Premier League’s big four to lose over this first weekend." Wooly the says: "Benitez used the two penalty appeals to try and convince his club’s fans they were unlucky," then adds: "Liverpool supporters are not fools. They know their side were not unlucky."

So, after one match of the new Premiership season played, it appear Benitez is hopping mad ranting in all directions with the prospect of unemployment knocking on his door before too long. With such exploitation packed stories I wish I'd watched the game through the journalists eyes, never mind Rafa's spectacle waving. The reality was this was indeed a poor performance. The team lacked direction and creativity until Yossi Benayoun was introduced. The Reds can't get much worse then this lack lustre performance, but the fact does remain that despite Spurs deserving the victory, the Reds were denied a blatant penalty when Voronin was bundled over by Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Missed chances and poor refereeing decisions however count for nothing once the final whistle is blown. The season has just begun and the Reds must and will improve.

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