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By Football Talk.

Wigan's Hugo Rodallega scores against Liverpool

Liverpool missed out on the chance to reclaim fourth spot after a shock 1-0 lose to Wigan last night. They produced a woeful performance and will now be playing catch-up in the race for that all important fourth champions league place. Things could get worse for The Reds with captain Steven Gerrard facing a possible FA probe into a hand gesture aimed at the referee.

Liverpool knew a win would see them climb into fourth and put the pressure on Man City, Spurs and Villa. But it was a performance to forget by Rafa Bentizes’ men. They just didn’t get going and the first half was probably the worst 45 minutes Liverpool have played this season.

The returning Torres was the only threat on Wigan’s goal, striking the outside of the post and heading over from close range. Apart from that, Wigan were relatively comfortable. They were the more threatening on the two sides and came close to scoring the opening goal on a number of occasions before Rodallega eventually struck.

The usually reliable Dirk Kuyt was at fault as his loose pass on the edge of Liverpool’s box went straight to Boyce who’s cross from the left was poked home by Rodallega.

The second half was slightly better from Liverpool but still well below the standards expected of a team who were fighting for the title last year. Again Torres was the only player who looked like he could create anything but the Spaniard clearly lacked match sharpness and that showed in some wayward finishing.

In fact Wigan should have doubled their lead midway through the second half when N’Zogbia was sent clear but Reina did well to deny him. Liverpool lost for the ninth time this season with seven coming away from home, and they have now failed to score in six of their last eight premier league away games.

Manager Rafa Benitez has questioned the attitude of hsi playes, and rightly so. They didn’t have the desire from the start and showed no mental strength to come back once they went a goal down.

In the first-half we didn’t do anything, (we were) giving the ball away, not winning any first or second balls.

“It’s difficult to explain. The second-half a much better attitude but it wasn’t enough.

“It’s difficult to explain. I think it’s a question of attitude in the first-half.

“I think that the players in the second-half showed character. I think sometimes we were playing too quick, but at least we showed character, in the first-half we didn’t play well.”

This has certainly been a season to forget for Liverpool. They crashed out early in both domestic cups as well as failing to get through the champions league group stages, and are now struggling to finish fourth.

Injuries to key players have certainly not helped but Arsenal and Manchester United have coped with more injuries than Liverpool this year so it comes down to a lack of strength and depth in their squad. A ready-made replacement for Torres has clearly been missing as well as failing to fill the void left by Xabi Alonso.

But if Liverpool continue to produce performances like last night they can forget fourth place. They now sit sixth and have played more games than any of their rivals, if Manchester City win their two games in hand Liverpool would be seven points behind them. A big gap considering Liverpool only have nine games remaining. So they are now relying on others to drop points or they will not qualify for next years champions league.

That would have been unthinkable a year ago when they were fighting till the end with Manchester United for the premier league title eventually finishing second only four points off the pace. How Liverpool have fallen this much in less than a year is anyone’s guess. For a side like Liverpool to not have a shot on target against a team fighting relegation is a disgrace.

Rafa Benitez must take a lot of the criticism but players like Steven Gerrard have been severely under performing this season. The Liverpool captain showed his frustration with a v-sign at referee Andre Marriner after getting a booking for a challenge on James McCarthy. Marriner didn’t see the gesture but the FA could now take action if they feel Gerrard has a case to answer.

With the respect campaign in full-flow the FA may be under pressure to charge Gerrard, but a player who captains Liverpool as well as England recently should set a better example than to be so petulant.

Will Liverpool still manage to finish fourth? Please leave your comments below….


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