Fulham was a must-win game, and despite 4 defeats in 10 league games, the title was still a possibility. As Liverpool fans, it's our duty to believe that. The players had to believe and the manager had to believe it. That is the Liverpool way - believe you are the best then go out be the best.
Yes, there were players out injured, but that is no excuse. Manchester United were comprehensively beaten last week without Steven Gerrard and Alberto Aquilani. Fulham are not in the same league as United, and even without several of our top players, there was enough quality in the team to win the game.
Liverpool dominated much of the game, and Fulham scored against the run of play. Torres leveled the game with yet another fantastic goal. The game was wide open. Everything to play for. Then, Benitez did the unthinkable:
He waved the white flag and surrendered.
With only 60 minutes gone, he took off Torres, a move of such exasperating caution that I had to rub my eyes to make sure what I was seeing was real. Benitez explained his decision thus:
“We decided to take him off just after the hour because I want to protect him and don't want to lose an important player like Fernando for one month”.
What about protecting Liverpool FC's dignity and pride?!
Yes, there was a possibility that Torres might get injured again, but sometimes you have to take that chance, especially when a win is essential, which it was. Torres played 80 minutes against United and then had 5 and a half clear days off, yet we're supposed to believe he wouldn't be able to handle an extra 20 minutes on the pitch?!
Benitez continued to display a losing mentality with the ridiculous substitutions of Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt, both of whom were removed while Liverpool were LOSING and in desperate need of a goal.
To add insult to injury, Benayoun was replaced by Nathan Ecclestone, who had never before taken part in a Premier League game. Don't get me wrong - it's great for Ecclestone to get his chance, but at the expense of (arguably) Liverpool's best player on the day?
Benayoun was clearly angry at being taken off, as he had every right to be. His winning mentality was clearly still intact, whereas Benitez had already relinquished his.
Again, are we to believe that keeping Benayoun and Kuyt on the field for an extra 10-15 minutes would’ve made them too unfit to play in the Lyon game next week?! Of course not!
Benitez himself admitted that Liverpool were ‘in control’ of the game - why not try and build on that and go all out for the win? Why sabotage the team's chances to build much-needed momentum and confidence by making such unnecessary substitutions?
A manager of Liverpool FC has a duty to instill a winning mentality into the team and to display that winning mentality with every decision he makes.
Did Benitez do this against Fulham?
Throwing in the towel is unforgiveable. Yes, we have an important game against Lyon coming up but that doesn’t justify Benitez giving-up and waving the white flag when the going got tough.
How many times have Liverpool won games at the death over the last two seasons?! Indeed, in the corresponding fixture last season, Liverpool beat Fulham with a goal in the 90th minute!
With 30 minutes to go there was every possibility that Liverpool could've scored another 1 or 2 goals, and I personally have no doubt whatsoever that if Torres, Benayoun and Kuyt had stayed on the field, Liverpool would’ve won the game.
Instead, the game was catastrophically lost. Benitez basically sent out a signal that winning a game to SAVE LIVERPOOL’S LEAGUE SEASON was not important enough to fight for.
The most disappointing thing, however, is the damage done to the club's winning mentality. Liverpool didn’t just lose; thanks to Benitez, Liverpool are now losers in the truest sense of the word.
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Source : http://www.liverpool-kop.com/2009/11/rafa-when-did-it-become-acceptable-for.html