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The simple things you see are all complicated

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Robbo Robson | 12:18 UK time, Monday, 5 April 2010

Rafa Benitez, eh? He's a riddle wrapped in an enigma and deep-fried in a conundrum batter. He is football's equivalent of the parmo.

I've not met a single person in the last 24 hours who can adequately explain why, when Liverpool were in desperate need of a goal, he removed the man most likely to get one. I was reminded of the time Graham Taylor took off Gary Lineker and replaced him with the worthy but lethal-as-a-cotton-bud Arsenal striker Alan Smith.

If there are any of the 'In Rafa We Trust' brigade still out there, we need to hear from them. Torres was exhausted, he claimed. Not as exhausted as the well of inspiration the manager dips into every time he sends David Ngog on to the pitch.

Torres leaves the fieldBenitez withdraws Torres from the action at Birmingham

He had plenty of attacking players on the pitch: Babel, Ngog, Kuyt, Rodriguez and, up off the treatment table for the fifth time this season, Alberto Aquilani (I assume that the name Aquilani has the same origins as aquiline, which means 'eagle-like' - or in Alberto's case 'Eddie the Eagle-like' given that there's been so many lame launches of his Liverpool career).

Torres himself looked bewildered by the decision. Gerrard wasn't too chuffed. Could Rafa really be keeping his powder dry for the Europa League (Europe's Mickey Mouse Cup)?

Mind you, logic is sometimes absent from even the best of managers.

Manchester United's top dog fingered his way through the file of post-match excuses and then stuck with Page 1 - 'the officials were abysmal.'

Well, yes, but they were even-handedly so. Drogba's offside was missed: Macheda's handball was missed.

Penalties were denied at both ends - although Park's collapse barely merited one, whereas Neville's take-out of Anelka suggests that he's got a job as a bodyguard should, say, David Beckham decide he needs one.

There's no doubting that referee Dean got some decisions wrong but there's no way Ferguson can claim that Chelsea didn't deserve their win. Slagging off the officials doesn't alter the fact that United were a player short on Saturday.

There was a bit of pre-match hype surrounding Berbatov - regular 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' stuff - but he didn't produce the action to justify the words.

People have been talking about Rooney's movement all season and only in his absence can you really appreciate it. You'd've needed one of them time-lapse cameras that records plants growing to truly track Dimi's movement. Indeed, Wazza on crutches would have been fleeter of foot.

You have to say one of the revelations of the season has been Skiptoo Malouda.

He ended last season with a reputation as a lightweight - Malouda and Kalou looked like they needed shipping out - and yet the Frenchman has been far and away the best left-sided midfielder in the Premiership and the way he strode beyond Fletcher and co for Chelsea's opener proved as much. Joe Cole's finish was a delight, even if he did look as surprised as the rest of us at how well it worked.

Clearly, Chelsea should march confidently towards the title now. There are some mouth-watering fixtures still to come, mind...

Darren BentShould Darren Bent go to the World Cup?

It's quite possible that Spurs and Man City could utterly scupper their nearest rivals' hopes of winning the Premier League.

It's the sort of prospect that makes a supporter positively ache for victory. In fact it turns every self-respecting fan into Kevin Keegan... 'I'd love it, LOVE IT, if we beat them now!'

Of course the fourth-place run-off is far from settled, even if it seems that the next time Liverpool are within an ace of taking another three points, chances are Rafa will play a front three of Carra, Agger and Phil Thompson.

It continues to be a potty season of course. You rule out Villa, they take three points. You ridicule City, they win 6-1. You big up Spurs, they get thrashed and give away three penalties. Fortunately D. Bent is the taker, so they were spared.

I'd like to think that Bent could cut it at the World Cup. After all, bagging 20 plus goals when your supply lines are as wayward as Sunderland's is a fair effort. And clearly his strike-rate on penalty kicks should qualify him for the inevitable quarter-final shoot-out against Portugal.

But he's one of the current crop of hot-headed whack-it merchants when what we crave is an ice-cool slide-rule finisher (which is probably why most football pundits took so long to wipe the nostalgic tears from their eyes every time Michael Owen crashed home another pocket of thin air and watched the ball dribble out for a throw-in.)

Of all the candidates, Zamora looks the coldest-eyed of the lot. That's where we're at. We've got Defoe, Carlton Cole, Agbonlahor, Bent... and the best you can say about them all at the mo is that they're not Heskey.

But then I reckon that means I've got an outside chance meself.

I reckon Capello will still be going with Rooney, Crouch, Defoe, Cole and Heskey. And some of us will be scratching our heads but showing the same sort of blind faith as the Koppite who still believes in Benitez. There must be at least one left.


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