Rafa Benitez brings his Newcastle side to Anfield on Saturday evening and instead of doing a standard, short match preview I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back at just a few of Rafa’s memorable away days as Liverpool manager.
Here’s hoping he doesn’t get another iconic win this weekend though…
|Image via Liverpool Echo|
Barcelona – 21st February 2007
Scorers: Bellamy and Riise
|Image via The Redmen TV|
It’s February 2007, Liverpool are once again storming it in the Champions League under Rafael Benitez and the Reds have drawn Barcelona in the last 16.
In the run-up to their visit to the Nou Camp Liverpool had seen a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby and lost at the hands of Newcastle. Tactical magician Benitez though wasn’t going to let this poor form ruin his chances of being one of the very few managers to walk away victorious from Barcelona’s precious ground.
On the night, Barca actually took the lead thanks to a goal from Deco but Benitez’s side remained focused and Craig Bellamy found the back of the net a couple of minutes before half time. Celebrating with his famous golf club celebration as a joke to the press who claimed he had fallen out with Riise, nobody could have predicted it would be the Norweigan who would find the winner.
Riise always had a cracking shot on him and he made sure he was on target for this memorable fixture, securing Liverpool a massive away win with just 15 minutes of the match left.
Some question how much a manager really has to do with results such as this but I am never in doubt when it comes to Benitez. He was monumental in these games.
Real Madrid – 25th February 2009
|Image via Liverpool Echo|
Fast forward two years and Liverpool are at it in the Champions League again. Back in Benitez’s native Spain, this time the Reds were at the Bernabeu. Throughout his Liverpool years, Benitez was often faced with an interesting selection of players to put it politely, some of these players may not have been the best but one thing you could guarantee is that Benitez would bring out their true quality.
Kuyt is one that always stands out to me, utterly transformed and completely relentless under Benitez, Kuyt would never ever give up and he was instrumental in a lot of Rafa’s away wins. Another name on that list I would say to a lesser extent was Yossi Benayoun. No world beater, I’m sure he would admit himself, but Benitez knew how to field him and how to help him produce goals.
I still never thought I would see the day Yossi would score against Madrid though.
On top of Benayoun finding the winner, Benitez must once again be praised on this away day for his solid defence. It was no coincidence the Reds kept a clean sheet.
Manchester United – 14th March 2009
Scorers: Torres, Gerrard (peno), Aurelio, Dossena
|Image via Independent|
Last, but most definitely not least, that infamous day at Old Trafford. On the 14th March 2009 having beaten Real Madrid at Anfield 4-0 just a few days prior, the Reds and Rafael Benitez went on an absolute rampage.
Since I was a little kid I’ve always built myself up for the United games, as a Liverpool supporter not hailing from the city it’s usually the one that gears me up the most. Prior to kick off you could just sense that something was going to swing in Liverpool’s favour, it’s not often the Reds notch up a win at Old Trafford, let alone a battering and in part, the victory was down to that man Benitez again.
In the warm up the Reds had lost Xabi Alonso to a calf injury, some would argue no big deal but Xabi was a massive influence on the Liverpool side and added significant balance. Rafa remained calm and instructed his side perfectly against an extremely lacklustre United.
Still to this day that is one of my favourite Liverpool matches.
There were so many away games I could have discussed but I’d be hard-pressed to replace these as a top three. What was your favourite Benitez away day?
Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!
Read More: Rafa Benitez: Away Days
Source: The Liver Bird