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Liverpool soap opera continues
January 22nd, 2008 6:45AM



Who will fall first? Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez? Or its despised American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett?

The Liverpool drama continued Monday night at Anfield as they slumped to a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in a match that looked lost until giant Peter Crouch salvaged a point with a goal two minutes from time.

A loss might have meant the end for Benitez, whose Reds have only one of five games since the start of the year -- a win over bankrupt third-division club Luton in an FA Cup replay -- and now find themselves in a three-way tie for fifth place in the English Premier League, two points behind archrival Everton in fourth place.

In the eyes of Liverpool fans, though, Benitez remains a hero for standing up to his American bosses, Hicks and Gillett. Fans demanded the removal of Hicks and Gillett on Monday.

"You don't care about Rafa, you don't care about the fans, Liverpool Football Club is in the wrong hands," chanted fans at Anfield.

The Liverpool fans may have their wish if Gillett and Hicks don't secure a $600 million refinancing deal in the next three weeks. Dubai International Capital, the investment arm of the Dubai Government, is reportedly ready to buy part or all of the Americans' interest in Liverpool.

As far Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is concerned, an end to the soap opera could not come too soon.

"It's not just this week," he said. "It's been going on for some time and it's certainly not helping the players. I've got to be careful what I say, but it's certainly not helping the team."

Benitez blamed mistakes, not the controversy surrounding his relationship with Hicks and Gillett, for Liverpool's problems on the field.

"If you analyze two or three games that we've drawn at home," the Spaniard said, "we've created enough to win, but we concede a second goal and we concede a bad goal. It's a problem."

Against Villa, Israeli Yossi Benayoun put the Reds ahead in the first half, but Villa stormed back thanks to Marlon Harewood's overhead kick and a Fabio Aurelio own goal.

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