Under fire Benitez facing new crisis

A week that began badly for Liverpool with the resignation of a director for abusing a fan got even worse when the team upset thousands more fans by being knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Reading.

The Championship strugglers came from behind to beat Liverpool 2-1 after extra time in a third-round replay at Anfield to heap more pressure on Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez as Liverpool's troubled season hit a new low.

Angry Liverpool fans, who are usually fiercely loyal, booed the team off at Anfield and flooded radio phone-in programmes to demand Benitez's resignation while British media speculated on the prospects of him surviving the latest blow.

Liverpool are effectively out of the Premier League title race, trailing leaders Chelsea by 12 points. They have also been knocked out of the Champions League, League Cup and now the FA Cup with just the Europa League a possible route to redemption.

Whether Benitez will remain in his job long enough to bring that trophy back to Anfield is debatable as his team struggle to reproduce the heights of old - or even the form of last season when they finished as runners-up to Manchester United.

Thursday's newspapers made for uncomfortable reading for the Spaniard with The Guardian saying "Anfield humbling piles pressure on Benitez".

The Times headlined its story "Benitez faces fight for survival" while the Daily Mirror, referring to the injuries Liverpool sustained against Reading declared: "Torres out, Gerrard out, Liverpool out ... Rafa Out ?"


The week began badly when director Tom Hicks Jr was forced to resign his seat on the board after sending an insulting e-mail to a fan.

The following day fans were upset when the club's commercial director said Liverpool's new stadium, when it is eventually built, would probably lose the name Anfield and be open to any potential sponsor who won the right to have its name on it.

Those developments were bad enough - as was the farcical 1-0 loss at Sunderland earlier in the season where the goal came when the ball bounced off a beach ball thrown on to the pitch by a Liverpool fan - but Wednesday's defeat plumbed new depths.

Injuries to Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun against Reading will hardly help Benitez as Liverpool face two tricky league games in the next week.

They travel to hard-to-beat Stoke City on Saturday then face in-form Tottenham at Anfield next Wednesday and Benitez badly needs victories from both matches to help his cause.

He will be able to boost his beleaguered squad by giving a debut to new signing Maxi Rodriguez who joined the club on Wednesday - then watched in amazement as Liverpool lost to Reading after playing so poorly.

Benitez admitted after the match the team needed to improve, but with trouble in the boardroom, a lack of available cash for new players and with the team rarely playing well, the pressure is mounting on him to turn the season around - quickly.