I'm afraid this match report is going to probably appear very negative and low, even being one of the most optimistic fans myself, i struggled dearly to find any real positives from Saturday's clash at Fratton Park. It was quite possibly the worst i have ever seen us play but despite this, i still refuse to jump on a band wagon filled with mostly a deluded fan who is following other peoples train of thought just because at the time, it seemed correct.
We all know the situation with Benitez and we all know as fans that there will always be a difference of opinion but time after time after time there is ALWAYS a select few who bash the manager after a poor result, no real reason or points, they just cause a knee jerk reaction, this then snowballs and many fans who do not take time to think are switched inadvertently to the "Rafa out" way of thinking.
Now don't get me wrong, i have no problem with a fan that can wholeheartedly explain in a calm manner why they do not want Benitez at the club, or why they do not feel he is our best option anymore. If anyone speaks to me with their point of view and can back up their thoughts with good points and facts then that's fine but when you have hundred's and hundred's of forum members, Facebook & Twitter users feeling it completely necessary to type "Rafa out" on their status's/messages then when asked for a reasoning the best they can come up with is that he started Dossena, a player who might i add had a stormer of a game against Debrecen then it is beyond a farce.
Yes, we know you would have preferred Benayoun, so would i but the fact of the matter is Dossena is not the sole reason as to why Liverpool lost on Saturday. Maybe it didn't help but can you honestly sit there and feel that explains the reason the defence was a shambles? The reason Gerrard is still un-Gerrard-like at the moment? The reason Mascherano was red carded for a tackle he could not have removed his foot from even if he tried after getting tangled in a flailing Ben Haim? The reason Daniel Agger's almost perfect header would not be sent goal bound? No you can't, because that my friends is the REAL reason Liverpool lost in such a bad fashion yesterday.
A combined mixture of injuries, bad refereeing, beach balls, off form players and a very slow start to the season have all appeared to have been Rafael Benitez's greatest enemies so far this year. No matter what he does or how he does it, some how it is all totally down to him, his fault - solely. Don't get me wrong, he's not faultless, i don't always sit there after a totally questionable substitution and fill the television with shouts of praise, i voice what i am truly thinking at the time but i always sit down afterwards and try to look back at the game, the result and the decisions when i am in a proper state of mind.
To be fair to Portsmouth, it was two fantastic goals from ridiculous angles that provided them with the win. Despite Liverpool's almost constant pushing again we suffered when it came to the end product.
Gerrard and Torres early on appeared to be linking up very well together but after the goal came in and the minutes began to tick by that famous electric partnership began to fizzle out.
When Mascherano was sent off we were left with a massive hole in midfield. Although i felt the tackle was a bad one and undoubtedly a free kick and yellow card the only real reason i can see as to why the red was given is that the referee did not have as good a look at the challenge as viewers with the replay's did. It did look high and by Ben Haim's reaction it was clear to the referee that it was a bad tackle but after Mascherano actually took the challenge in between the Israeli's legs and ended up getting tangled, plus injured in the process it was again another unfortunate decision.
Dossena left the field at an early time of 52 minutes and was replaced with Yossi Benayoun. Even with the skill and magic that Yossi brings to the pitch, the number 15 could not add a game changing effect to an already deflated Liverpool.
Roughly 65 minutes and the next Liverpool substitution came, Insua off, Aurelio on. Now this for me was the more confusing situation and one more worthy of questioning, not the Dossena start. Left back for left back when were 1-0 down doesn't always jump to you as a great idea but i must admit the crossing and set piece play Aurelio added to the latter stages of the game did add a big plus.
Portsmouth's second goal was a big blow, and with just over ten minutes left on the clock, i had already given up most hope.
87 minutes and Jay Spearing was given a run out after Lucas was substituted. Lucas was in my eyes the only player on Saturday that actually played well, he was by far the best player on the pitch for Liverpool and just seemed to do everything right.
So that was pretty much it, 90 minutes and almost all Liverpool could be grateful for was the Agger header which on most other days would have ended up in the back of the net. Would it have mattered? I'm not so sure even though an equalizer so soon after the Portsmouth goal would have had it's effect, somehow i just don't think we would have gone on to win the game anyway, not even keep hold of the draw. Portsmouth look a refreshed and dangerous side now and they should be praised for their efforts against a feeble Liverpool side.
In reflection then where does it leave us? What does it mean?
Well firstly, it leaves us in 8th position, (after today's Birmingham result, can't count on Everton for nothing can you?) three points behind 6th place.
Secondly it leaves us without a key member of our squad in Javier Mascherano.
And thirdly it leaves us with an incentive, we know, the lads know and no doubt Rafa knows that that result was far from good enough and more so that the performance was terrible. We are in a sense lucky to be faced with promoted side Wolves as our Boxing Day fixture but to be honest under our recent form, it is still going to take a lot to beat the Midland side.
We simply have to be solid in defence, and we can only hope that Torres will be sharp and Gerrard will appear a bit more like himself but this fixture is a great chance to AGAIN try to begin the turn around.
It will be interesting to see what team Rafa fields, with Mascherano unavailable this is a great chance and the perfect game to start Aquilani, but after he supposedly picked up another knock and was unable to train before the Portsmouth match who knows if he himself will be available.
I just want to put that result behind us as quickly as possible, onwards and hopefully upwards it is. A win on Boxing Day would be the perfect delayed Christmas present for Liverpool and the look on my gold and black other half's face wouldn't be a bad gift for myself.
As i always say, stick with the lads and stick with the gaffa. The last thing anyone needs after a result like that is a drop in faith from the fanbase.