Rafa hits back out at bitter Stubbs

Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Everton last week was quite an achievement under the circumstances. They won despite being a man short with their captain sent off after 20 minutes, and with Everton going into the game claiming to be on top form. The nicest was of describing the referee’s performance was that he was inconsistent and seemed to be suffering from a lack of concentration. Liverpool’s performance was so good that it looked like they were playing with 11 men. Liverpool were by far the better team on the day, but that means nothing in the world of the bitterest Blues.

Alan Stubbs was dumped by Everton just under a year ago. The blues were celebrating at the end of the season as they had finished fourth and therefore assumed they were in the Champions League. They were actually only in the qualifiers, and were dumped out of that by Villareal. Or by Pierluigi Collina if you believe what most blues say. Over the summer Moyes was expecting to have no problems attracting some of the best talent on offer, with the lure of Champions League football. Stubbs was just one player allowed to go. Trouble was nobody was keen on joining the blues; they are practically unheard of on the continent and if anything that anonymity could be an advantage to them. By the time the January transfer window had re-opened Everton had accepted that they weren’t going to be attracting anyone of note, and so tried successfully to bring former captain Stubbs back again.

After the embarrassment of yet another derby defeat, Stubbs was looking
for someone to blame, someone who could be the cause of all the ills of
the blues. Everton don’t lose games, they have games stolen from them.
Unbelievably, Stubbs was claiming the referee was to blame for the
defeat, by not booking Luis Garcia. Garcia had suggested to the referee
that Stubbs should be shown a card, and this incensed the defender. The
fact his replacement for captain ran the length of the field to make
sure Steven Gerrard was sent off was somehow different.

Rafael Benitez comes from a country where derby matches are no less
passionate than they are in England, but even he was surprised at how
Stubbs had turned the facts around so much. Rafa says that he won’t
allow his players to pressurise the referee in the way you so often
used to see the Roy Keane-led Manchester United team do it, or the
current Chelsea team do the same. He says, “We are one of the fairest
teams in the league. I have seen a lot of games and a lot of teams
pressing referees much more than us. I was surprised to read anything
like this about my team.”

Until Everton accept their own faults, and that applies to their fans
as much as their officials and players, they will always be in the
Liverpool shadows. This is something they just seem unable to do
though, and so Liverpool continue to do better. Forget last season’s
league placings, they were so obviously a flash in the pan. Rafa says
Liverpool won this time because once again they were deserving of it:
“We were the better team in the derby, even with ten men, so I don’t
know why anyone should talk about other things.”

Judging by some of the emails we receive to this site, a lot of fans of
a lot of other clubs respect Rafael Benitez and Liverpool. There’s a
lot of honesty from the boss when he speaks about the game, and he
instils that into his players. Other clubs – one in particular – seem
to instil into their players to win at all costs. Rafa won’t have that
though: “When a player signs for us, we expect him to adopt the
mentality of the club. That means showing respect for the other team,
so long as they respect us, and showing the commitment and hard work
associated with playing for Liverpool.” Maybe the blues will get less
respect next season then; they certainly show little respect to the
Reds.

Rafa continued: “We know what supporters expect from us and I know we
don’t have a problem with our players. You can see that from all our
games. It’s very clear and should not even be up for debate. We are not
a club which likes to see players diving or pressing the referee. If
you see this in other teams, and they’re profiting from it, someone
needs to do something to change it. You can’t be too nice in that
situation.”

Rafa feels strongly about the gamesmanship that has once again become
the hot topic in the game. Top clubs and top players have a
responsibility to show how you can succeed without cheating or bending
the rules: “The top class players and clubs need to give an example to
others. Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United are on
television more than other smaller teams. Youngsters will be influenced
by what our players do, so it’s really important for us to understand
we have a responsibility in football to win, but also show fair play.”