Rafa: Momo injury spoils good night

Liverpool earned a place in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup last night thanks to a goal from Daniel Agger, but there was a big price to pay for that success. Malian midfielder Momo Sissoko was stretchered off with a dislocated shoulder and may be out for the rest of this year as a result. Speaking after the game manager Rafael Benítez confirmed the news: “It is good news because we are in the next round – but a shame because of Momo Sissoko’s injury. We don’t know for how long he will be out but it may be for quite some time – maybe. He has dislocated his shoulder. It will be maybe more than one month – I hope not but I think it will be serious.”

Last season Momo suffered a serious eye injury during a Champions League match against Benfica and his absence was felt in the games that followed. Rafa knew something was wrong when the player stayed down and he thinks Momo has had some bad luck with injuries: “He is unlucky with injuries, especially with the kind of injuries he has sustained, his eye last season and now the shoulder. They are not very common injuries. It was an accident but it was clear something was wrong. Momo is a player who doesn’t like to stay on the ground.”

We’ll now see how well Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard can combine in the centre, unless Rafa decides to stick with Xabi and Bolo Zenden in midfield. Jermaine Pennant sent the corner in that resulted in the winner last night so his chance to show why Rafa paid so much for him may come in the following weeks. Rafa said: “Now we have to manage with the players we have until January and I am happy with the squad but when you lose a player that is playing every game like Momo, it is a problem.”

Liverpool won in the end, a rare success away from home this season, but Rafa would have liked them to have made sure of the win rather than be left worrying for the rest of the game: “When you have chances you need to score and finish the game. At 1-0 we had the penalty and a lot of clear chances. They had one chance but we didn’t concede a goal and it was a great save from Jerzy Dudek. I felt the players worked really hard. I changed some players, there were some young boys out there but we were good against a difficult team.”

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce was angry after the game, but pleased with the efforts his players had put in: “I just thought if we had a bit more belief about us, we could have got something. We had two or three good opportunities – you have to take them but Maik Taylor kept us in it with the penalty save. We are young and naive at times but I thought there was nothing in it, especially in the first half. In the second half the goal they got just before the break gave them extra confidence but overall it was a decent cup tie.”

His anger though was aimed at referee Howard Webb who Bruce believes ruined his team’s chances by not allowing them to be as physical as Bruce wanted: “They are never going to be real cup-ties anymore if we keep on seeing performances from referees like that. If we are not careful we will be playing in high heels and skirts and playing netball. It is so frustrating but there you go.”

He added a little more but stopped short in fear of being fined, making references to the division he was relegated from last season: “I thought his overall decision-making was poor. I don’t want to say much because I don’t want to get fined again because the Premier League are very good at that. Every little decision went Liverpool’s way – the big Premier League team against the not so big team.”

Birmingham’s Mehdi Nafti kicked an advertising hoarding when he had been substituted, angering his boss, who said: “He was disappointed but we’ll deal with him over the next 24 hours.”