Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Lee intervenes in touchline saga

It was curious that Rafael Benitez decided to shun the limelight just when the world was waiting for his latest retort in response to a stinging rebuke from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson last Friday.

The feeding frenzy that has enveloped the warring managers has become as fascinating as the spat itself, so it came as something of a let down when assistant manager Sammy Lee stepped in to diffuse the situation ahead of Liverpool's Premier League game against Arsenal at Anfield on Tuesday.

Ferguson chose his FA Cup semi-final press conference to let fly with a withering attack on his Anfield counterpart, branding him arrogant, lacking in humility and showing "absolute contempt" for Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce over a 'game over' touchline gesture the Spaniard made immediately after Fernando Torres' second goal during Liverpool's 4-0 drubbing of the Ewood Park club 10 days ago.

The Scot was unrepentant when he appeared before the press on Tuesday, adding "they [Liverpool] are hurt by it [Benitez's gesture]".

Lee attempted to draw a line under the matter when he argued: "It's not for us to talk about other football clubs. We very rarely do. We try to concentrate on what's going on here and let the game take its course."

Curiously, Lee, Allardyce's former assistant at Bolton, said his former Reebok Stadium colleague had not even raised the subject when the pair enjoyed a post-match drink on Merseyside.

Then, in a staunch defence of Benitez, added: "This is not Britain's Got Talent; you don't win anything for being popular, but our manager is not arrogant. He is astute, learned, educated and his attention to detail is fantastic. We are all a bit sensitive to criticism but he knows what he is doing, why he is doing it and who he is gesticulating at!"

It is safe to assume Benitez will return to face the cameras if he, and Liverpool, have the last laugh in a compelling Premier League title race.

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