Monday’s Papers: Where was Robbie Keane?

West Ham‘s impressive 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge last night sees Liverpool retain their position a point clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League table despite a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Hull City on Saturday. But, as this morning’s papers agree, it could look so much more rosy for the Reds.

Phil Shaw of the Daily Telegraph says Rafa Benitez’s refusal to use Robbie Keane as a substitute on Saturday despite the team frantically looking for a goal in the second half will not help the Irishman’s confidence.

An hour after the final whistle that signalled fresh home discomfort for Liverpool, a disconsolate figure headed for the shower following a lengthy series of shuttle runs and stretching exercises on the pitch. They call it the warm-down. Robbie Keane looked like a man who feels he is being frozen out.

Instead, Liverpool piled the pressure forward on Hull and came close on numerous occasions, but still lacked some firepower up front. The introduction of youngster Nabil El Zahr merely showed lack of experience and a somewhat naive mentality from the Moroccan amongst his flashes of promise on the right wing.

The Times’ James Ducker also questions Benitez’s decision to leave Keane on the bench on Saturday, adding that the pair exchanged blank looks at the final whistle.

Asked whether his decision not to play his £20.3 million signing was a political one, one that some concluded was a deliberate attempt to spite the former Tottenham Hotspur player, Benítez insisted that it was purely a ‘œtactical’ move before embarking on an unconvincing defence of El Zhar, who continually conceded possession despite forcing one good save, and the need to attack Hull from wide areas.

A debatable decision it was, but let’s not let it overshadow a fantastic first half fightback constructed and finished by Steven Gerrard. Yet none of this morning’s papers want to credit the skipper with praise. Perhaps it’s just expected from such a talent thesedays.

Andy Hunter of The Guardian saw frailties in Liverpool’s performance, their third consecutive draw at home.

Benítez’s infallibility contrasted starkly with Phil Brown’s admission that Hull could have notched another remarkable away win here had he another right-back on his bench. Bernard Mendy frequently menaced Liverpool’s £7m left-back, ­Andrea Dossena, until he reverted to defence, winning the free-kick against Sami ­Hyypia that produced Paul McShane’s headed breakthrough and leaving the Italian trailing in the approach to Jamie Carragher’s own goal. “Are you Arsenal in disguise?” asked the travelling legion as they basked in their two-goal superiority. The answer was a resounding no.

The Reds next face Arsenal in the Premier League this Sunday (4pm kick-off) at the Emirates Stadium.