Rafael Benitez hits out at Liverpool side as Wigan win
Rafael Benitez pulled no punches in assessing his side’s poor display after the 1-0 defeat by Wigan, accusing his team of lacking attitude and character.
“I’m really disappointed,” a sombre Liverpool manager told BBC Sport.
“In the first half we didn’t do anything and didn’t show the attitude required. It’s difficult to explain.
“At half-time we talked about the things we weren’t doing well – the attitude and the character. We made too many mistakes and played too quickly.”
A ninth Premier League defeat in 29 matches leaves Liverpool with an uphill struggle to qualify for the Champions League, with Benitez’s side a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who have a game in hand.
The way we beat Liverpool and Chelsea a few months ago shows the potential they have
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez
Just above Liverpool are Manchester City, who have the same number of points as Spurs, but have played one game less than the London side, while Aston Villa are in seventh, with 45 points from 26 games.
Hugo Rodallega’s 35th-minute winner came from a mistake by Dirk Kuyt, a point that was picked up on by Benitez, who has frequently promised during the season that Liverpool will qualify for the Champions League.
“We didn’t deserve anything in the first half,” conceded Benitez, who, perhaps with Thursday’s Europa League match against Lille in mind, broke from his usual approach of defending his team following a poor performance.
“In the second half we worked harder but Wigan defended really well.”
Late in the game, television pictures seemed to capture captain Steven Gerrard flashing what looked like a V-sign at referee Andre Marriner after the midfielder was booked but both Benitez and club officials have played it down.
“I don’t know, I was too far away,” was the Liverpool manager’s response.
While Benitez reflected on another painful defeat for Liverpool, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez savoured his side’s first win since 16 January.
“We were worthy winners and that speaks volumes about the character of the players,” said Martinez, whose side moved four points clear of the relegation zone after the victory.
“We have had a few painful lessons and thrown away 19 points and had we even kept half of them we would be in a completely different situation.
“We are a young squad but the way we beat Liverpool and Chelsea a few months ago shows the potential they have,” added the Spaniard, referring to Wigan’s 3-1 victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s side in September.
“We must make sure that we finish the season as strongly as we can do.
“It was pleasing to be able to perform the way we did but the application, concentration and desire to keep Liverpool as quiet as we did is a huge compliment to the players.
“We have got five huge games left at home – it is important the players understand the magnitude of this performance. This standard is something we need to show week in, week out.”