Rodallega strike helps Wigan stun Liverpool

Football: EPL: Benitezs side stays in sixth spot behind Spurs

Rodallega strike helps Wigan stun Liverpool

ON TARGET: Wigan Athletic's Hugo Rodallega (left) scores past Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina on Monday. AFP

Liverpool gave the ball away repeatedly in a shocking first-half display and were punished ten minutes before the break when Hugo Rodallega struck from close range.

The Anfield club continued to make alarming mistakes in midfield and defence, while Fernando Torres missed the best of their chances when they did manage to threaten.

The result left Liverpool floundering with 48 points in sixth place –– a point behind Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the race for fourth and a shot at making the Champions League next season.

To compound the problem, Liverpool have played a game more than Spurs and two more than City. Aston Villa, three points behind Liverpool but with three games in hand, are also looming. Wigan climb two places to 14th with 28 points after registering their first win over Liverpool in 12 attempts.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hit out at his side's poor attitude. "We have to show more character if we want to be in the top four," he told ESPN.

For a side brimming with talent Liverpool were well below par and had precious few clear-cut chances, Spain striker Torres spurning his side's best opportunity with 15 minutes remaining when, unmarked in the box, he rolled a shot hopelessly wide.

Liverpool now have just nine league games to rescue the situation. The only positive news for Liverpool was the return of England defender Glen Johnson, missing since December after suffering a knee injury against Aston Villa.

Liverpool have now lost nine league matches this term and only have Europa League silverware to play for after early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup.
Benitez, who took Liverpool to a surprise Champions League triumph in 2005, has defended his team -- almost monotonously -- throughout this damp squib of a season but on Monday his patience had clearly run out.

"I have to be really disappointed and I can't be happy after losing a game like that," Benitez told reporters.

"You have some good games and bad games but especially at this time, at a crucial moment, we could have done better.
"It's a question of analysing why we didn't show the character we had to show in the first half."

A dismal tally of 12 league goals away from home and 45 all season compare miserably to last year's total of 77. Liverpool had 11 shots on goal against Wigan but rarely troubled their former goalkeeper Chris Kirkland.

To improve their strike rate Liverpool desperately need a prolific partner for the injury-prone Fernando Torres.

Liverpool, who lost just twice last season on their way to finishing second, now trail league leaders Manchester United by 15 points in a season where the club have gone backwards.

The club face French side Lille in the Europa League last 16 on Thursday and are among the favourites to lift the trophy.

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