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Benitez and Wenger Condemn Ref Atkinson
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Rival managers Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger criticized referee Martin Atkinson after the Yorkshire official called off Liverpool's English League Cup quarter-final against Arsenal at Anfield on Tuesday night due to heavy fog.

The two clubs now face a fixture logjam with the congested Christmas fixture list looming before the scheduled semi-final date on January 9.

Atkinson postponed the game an hour before kick-off due to concerns over the ability of his officials to perform their duties, but both Benitez and Wenger insisted he was wrong to call off the game.

Benitez said: "Myself and Arsene Wenger tried to convince the referee that we could play, but it was impossible. The referee said that he could not see the different colours and that it would be difficult for the linesmen.

"But you could see both goals clearly from the centre-circle and the referee said no. I'm surprised because we felt we could play in those circumstances.

"The question now is that, if we draw against Arsenal in the FA Cup third round, when can we play the game? Maybe we need to play both cup ties in the same game!

"If the FA Cup game is a draw, then they will maybe have to move the League Cup semi-final to fit this game in."

Arsenal boss Wenger admitted that he was desperate for the game to go ahead to avoid a growing fixture headache.

He said: "We wanted to play and so did Liverpool, so it is very difficult to understand. But we were not able to influence the decision of the referee. In our opinion, the pitch was playable, but on the safety side, I don't know.

"We have a very heavy schedule against us, though, and it was impossible to rearrange the game within 24 hours. We will just have to see when it can be rearranged."

Referee Atkinson was unrepentant over his decision to postpone the fixture, despite the pleas of Benitez and Wenger.

Atkinson said: "We gave it every opportunity for the weather to clear. But unfortunately it did not and the weather stayed as it was. If you were sat in the stands and could not see the full pitch, you have to think of the fans.

"I have to think of my colleagues as well. If there was a 50-50 offside decision that could affect the outcome of the game, then it would be an impossible job for them."

(China Daily December 21, 2006)

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