Liverpool news Rafa Benitez's rare partnership that cost Liverpool PL title MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Liverpool enjoyed one of their most memorable Anfield European nights when beating Arsenal 4-2 on this day in 2008
Breaking News ! Liverpool enjoyed many a memorable Champions League night under Rafa Benitez in the noughties. From famously winning Europe’s elite competition by beating AC Milan in 2005, to conquering the continent’s biggest names, few could get the better of the Spaniard’s side. Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid all fell at the hands of the Reds as Liverpool enjoyed famous Anfield European night after famous Anfield European night. They of course defeated domestic opposition too, with Chelsea and Arsenal both being overcome by Benitez ’s men. While the Reds was partial to rotation, he rarely stepped away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 system as English football began to abandon it’s 4-4-2 roots. Read More Related Articles Ibrahima Konate snubs Virgil van Dijk and drops cryptic Liverpool hint over Jurgen Klopp Read More Related Articles Why Teun Koopmeiners won't be replacing Gini Wijnaldum despite lazy Liverpool transfer rumours However, there was one exception during the 2007/08 season. After signing Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid in a then club-record £20m, the Spaniard’s sensational form during his maiden campaign on Merseyside saw Benitez gradually step away from rotation with his new number nine one of a handful of indispensable players. With Torres forging a fledging relationship with captain Steven Gerrard, Peter Crouch was the player who ultimately missed out most following the Spaniard’s arrival despite being the second-leading goalscorer behind Kaka in the 2006/07 Champions League. Having made 42 starts from 49 appearances in 2005/06, Crouch had already seen his game-time limited in 2006/07 following the arrival of Dirk Kuyt with 30 of his 49 appearances coming from the start. Naturally Torres’ arrival saw it dwindle further in 2007/08 as Crouch was limited to just nine Premier League starts, with 21 of his 36 appearances in all competitions coming from the beginning. But he was given a rare opportunity alongside Liverpool’s new striker on this day in 2008 when the Reds locked horns with the Gunners in the Champions League quarter-finals. The duo started upfront together just seven times during their one overlapping season on Merseyside, with a famous Anfield European night against Arsenal ultimately the rare strike-partnership’s finest hour. With the tie poised following a first leg 1-1 draw at the Emirates as the two sides clashed three times in the space of a week, Crouch won his place for the second leg following an impressive showing in the Premier League meeting in North London sandwiched between Champions League encounters. Benitez sprung a surprise with a rare occasion of opting for a 4-4-2 set-up in Europe as the Torres and Crouch strike-partnership troubled Philippe Senderos in particular on what proved to be a memorable night for the Reds. Must-read Liverpool FC news Naby Keita's future at Liverpool Gravenberch 'better' than Pogba Klopp could give fans what they want New signing admission by LFC coach Falling behind to an early Abou Diaby strike as Liverpool's away goal from the Emirates was swiftly wiped out, Sami Hyypia levelled the scores when heading home from a corner on the half-hour mark. Crouch and Torres' moment came midway through the second half as the 6ft 7 striker flicked on a high ball to the Spaniard, allowing him to turn Senderos in the box before rifling into the top corner in front of the Kop. Liverpool were given a late scare as Theo Walcott ran the length of the pitch before squaring to Emmanuel Adebayor as Arsenal levelled the scores and took the lead on away goals with just five minutes to go. However, a Steven Gerrard penalty and last-minute Ryan Babel goal on the counter-attack ensured the Reds’ place in the semi-finals against Chelsea. But despite Crouch’s important contributions, he barely featured in the final weeks of the campaign as Benitez reverted to just Torres upfront. The England international would make just two more appearances for the club, scoring in both as his manager rotated his side in Premier League matches before each semi-final leg against the Blues. Left unused despite Liverpool needing a goal as they exited the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea, Crouch didn’t even make the matchday squad for their final two Premier League matches of the season.
. It was a decision he would later admit he regretted.
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In a Q&A session with the Daily Mail in April 2020, Crouch said his decision to join Portsmouth in the summer of 2008 was a hasty one given the opportunities that presented themselves to other strikers in the squad once he had moved to Fratton Park. “The one thing that niggles away at me is leaving Liverpool in 2008," he admitted. “Rafa Benitez was happy to let me go and I was only ever going to be a Plan B. “One of the reasons I went to Portsmouth was because Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were such a dynamic partnership but, 18 months later, when I saw Andriy Voronin and David Ngog getting opportunities, it made me wish I had stayed. “You don’t leave a club like Liverpool easily.” Meanwhile, he elaborated on his decision when appearing on BT Sport in October 2020. “It was a massive wrench for me,” he said. "I was playing for England at the time, and we signed Fernando Torres, there was one place up front with Steven Gerrard and I just looked at it and thought it wasn’t gonna be me. "I looked at it, I had to move on, it was gutting really because it’s only downhill from Liverpool in my opinion. "I looked at it after and Torres ended up going to Chelsea and I thought, ‘What might have been?’, it ended up being one of my biggest regrets in my career because I felt what could have been if I had hung on a little bit more. "I could’ve got games after Torres had left and there’s no better place to play than Liverpool, for me.”
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Crouch would score 16 goals in 49 appearances in a solitary season with Portsmouth before re-signing for Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2009. Meanwhile, Benitez brought Robbie Keane to Liverpool in a £20m deal from Spurs in the summer of 2008 to replace Crouch, with a view to being Torres’ new strike-partner. However, the Spaniard endured an injury-plagued campaign and was unable to build up any sort of partnership with the Irishman, who was sold back at a loss just midway through the season. With teenager David Ngog now Liverpool’s only understudy for Torres as he resumed his partnership with Gerrard, the Reds ultimately missed out on the Premier League title to Manchester United in 2009 as they were left to curse a lack of goals when the Spaniard was unavailable after falling to too many draws. Meanwhile, Torres’ injury woes continued in a miserable season for Liverpool in 2009/10 as they suffered a Champions League group-stage exit and finished just seventh in the Premier League table before Benitez ultimately lost his job. In the end, it wasn’t just Crouch regretting his 2008 Liverpool exit.
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