5/16/2009 01:59:00 pm

The ten reasons why Liverpool FC are not 2008/09 Premier League champions

Manchester United’s win over Wigan means that they are now just one point away from regaining their Premier League crown, and given that they next face an Arsenal side with their minds already on a beach somewhere, it’s a fair assumption to think that they’ll get it. With this in mind, Mark Jones takes a look at the reasons why Liverpool are not ending the season as Premiership champions.

Credit to United - it is the best team in the division that wins the league title, but there remains a nagging doubt that this year, finally, it should have been Liverpool.

It was the Reds’ best league season since a second placed finish in 2001/02 and was the closest Liverpool have got to the trophy since the start of the Premier League era, but once again that Championship flag will be flying over Old Trafford next season.

Here, in no particular order, are the ten reasons why:

Home discomforts

When analysing the difference between United and Liverpool this season, and ruing those points that got away, Rafa Benitez is likely to look at the seven home games between November and February, from which Fulham, West Ham, Hull, Everton and Man City all escaped Anfield with a point.

The Reds lacked the inventiveness to get in behind their opponents (Gerrard and Torres started only one of the five together), with Fulham and West Ham holding out for clean sheets with comparative ease.

That old fighting spirit was evident in some games, such as coming from two goals down against Hull, but a lack of composure cost the Reds dearly. Only Bolton and Chelsea were beaten over the period, meaning that 10 points were dropped.

Had all been taken, Liverpool would be champions. Never has the two point difference between a win and a draw seemed so important.

Robbie Keane

First things first, the Irishman is a quality player, his short-lived stay on Merseyside shouldn’t detract from that, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Keane’s style often depends on slowing things down and playing with his back to goal, the exact opposite of what much of Rafa’s Liverpool is about.

Certain factors conspired against him. For example, Torres’ injuries strangled all hope of a strike partnership; but it became painful to watch Keane at times.

Lacking the confidence that his game so clearly depends upon, and carrying the immense weight of expectations - both his own and the supporters’ – on his shoulders, Keane was visibly shrinking under the pressure, choosing the easiest option every time and failing to express himself in the way that his tremendous talent allows.

Liverpool’s form in front of goal became markedly improved after his exit. Now back at Tottenham, it was a return home that benefitted all parties.

Stoke City


There is something quite likeable about sticking to your principles in the face of fierce criticism, which is why neutrals have been queuing up to praise Tony Pulis for keeping Stoke in the Premier League.

It’s an understatement to say that they are not pretty to watch, but their approach is pretty effective, and Stoke fully deserve their place in next season’s top flight, ahead of many clubs who have spent much more money than them.

Liverpool’s two goalless games with the Potters weren’t classics, and it could easily be argued that the Reds were unlucky in both - Gerrard had a goal wrongly chalked off early in the first clash, and hit the post late in the second – but defeat would have been harsh on Stoke in both.

Their direct approach might not be pleasing on the eye, but they play to their strengths, something that is as admirable as it is difficult to face.

‘The Spirit of Istanbul’

He gets talked about every now and again, the Spirit of Istanbul. The ghostly figure – half Gerrard’s whirling arms, half Dudek’s wobbly legs – frightens Liverpool’s opponents into believing that, once again, the impossible really is possible.

He was busy this season, turning draws into wins and scaring Chelsea to within an inch of their Champions League lives, but is there a darker side to the Spirit? Liverpool love being the underdogs, and played their best football of the season when they were chasing Manchester United at the top of the table.

Installed as title favourites at the beginning of the year, the Reds wobbled under the pressure, drawing their first three league games of 2009. While the media focused on Benitez’s comments about Alex Ferguson, the real problem lay with a squad of players not used to leading from the front.

A draw with Man City saw the Reds’ hopes written off in late February, with title obituaries being written after a defeat at Middlesbrough six days later. Liverpool went to Old Trafford as massive underdogs in a win or bust situation.

The Spirit got to work again, spooking Nemanja Vidic in particular, and kicked off the Reds’ best spell of the season; a spell that sadly came too late.

1-0 to the U-ni-ted

While Manchester United rightly received widespread praise for the success of their attacking football last season; this campaign has been based mainly on defence.

Between late November and early February United won an astonishing eight out of 11 games by one goal to nil, with three of those wins coming via late goals. Keeping clean sheets seemed second nature to them - they kept an amazing fourteen in a row – but this could often be put down the opposition not being courageous enough to attack the champions.

Turning goalless draws into wins however is a more admirable quality, and United were just doing enough to win every time. Football is a game of fine margins, and the proof that Liverpool are not too far away from deposing Ferguson’s men can be found in these games.

Andrey Arshavin

How close would Liverpool have got the title had the little Arsenal forward only scored three goals at Anfield? It’s impossible to tell, but on a night when Liverpool played their very own version of Russian roulette, the two points dropped ensured that the Reds had shot themselves in the foot.

Perhaps we should be grateful that almost all of our defensive mistakes were made in one game, to get them out of the way, and that stunning fighting quality was again evident in the fight back to claim a point, but Arshavin’s special feat is (hopefully) unlikely to be repeated for some time yet, and proved to be the most fatal of self-inflicted wounds.

Fernando Torres’ hamstrings

Of all the stats to come out of this Premiere League season, surely the most staggering is this; Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have started just a third of Liverpool’s games together.

Sure, the Reds picked up some fantastic results with just one, or neither, in the starting line-up – beating Manchester United at home, Chelsea away and a famous win in the Bernabeu just for starters – but being unable to pair up arguably two of the top five players in the world is sure to affect performance.

Liverpool dropped fourteen points in the games that Torres didn’t start this season. Now of course its too simplistic – and plain wrong – to suggest that Liverpool would have recouped all of those had the striker been in the team, but its safe to assume that some of the fourteen would have been gathered had Torres’ goals been added to the occasions.

The forward hasn’t played on a losing Premier League side since the 3-0 loss at Old Trafford last March, and although his absence has seen the likes of Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt up their game, a fit and firing Fernando Torres is vital to Liverpool’s chances next season.

Federico Macheda

Torres had rocked United by robbing Vidic and clipping in an equaliser in March, Liverpool then floored their opponents thrice more that same afternoon, Danny Murphy and Fulham set the foundations shaking with a win a week later and Gabriel Agbonlahor almost brought Old Trafford crashing down when he put Aston Villa 2-1 up in early April.

Enter a young Italian that no-one had ever heard of. Ronaldo’s equaliser still meant that United would drop another two points, but Macheda’s late, late winner – coming just a day after Benayoun had done the same at Fulham, the defining ‘we’re going to do it!’ moment of the season – was as gut-wrenching a blow as any goal Liverpool have conceded in recent years.

With one swing of his right boot, the youngster had blown away all of the vulnerability of the previous weeks. United have won every game since. Other players may have contributed more to United’s season, but Macheda’s moment restored the swagger and confidence that was so clearly lacking.

The late, late horror show

Liverpool were rightly praised all season for their stirring comebacks and late winning goals. Middlesbrough, Man City, Portsmouth and Fulham were all beaten with the vital strike coming in stoppage time - with countless other goals coming late in the day – but the Reds were also on the receiving end of late drama.

Roman Pavlyuchenko’s stoppage time winner inflicted a first defeat of the season upon Liverpool at White Hart Lane (ironically on a day when they’d probably produced their best performance of the season up until that point); Tim Cahill headed a late equaliser in the Anfield derby when Liverpool switched off from a free-kick and Mido converted a late penalty after Wigan broke from a Liverpool corner to steal a point.

Obviously the pros far outweigh the cons when talking about Liverpool and late goals in 2008/09, and this may be nit-picking somewhat, but who knows what would have happened had the Reds held on to those five points that were dropped in the dying moments?

Ryan Babel

In an excellent season for Liverpool collectively, there were few disappointments, but one of them was undoubtedly Babel. After a very good first campaign for a young player in a foreign land, this was to be the season when Babel kicked on and elevated his game to a new level.

It didn’t happen. The signing of Albert Riera and the improved form of Yossi Benayoun admittedly limited his chances, but Babel simply didn’t produce when he needed to.

An unforgettable Kop end winner against Manchester United was the highlight, but the fact that that came in September tells you that there was little to speak of after it (although his display at home to Real Madrid on a rare 90 minute outing was encouraging).

With Keane’s troubles and Torres’ absence, Babel had the chance to establish himself as a top striker, but Benitez has always been reluctant to use him as one, now seemingly preferring rookie David Ngog in the position to his £11m signing.

Now reduced to the role of ‘impact player’ Babel needs to have more of an impact next season, if indeed he’s still at Anfield. It’s wrong to single out anyone for too much criticism, and there is a very good player lurking within the Dutchman, but whether we’ll ever see it in Red is doubtful.

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Liverpool shouldn’t be too downhearted at Manchester United’s success this season. The Reds have shown remarkable progress in a very short space of time. The 4-1 win at Old Trafford should blow away the inferiority complex that Liverpool often felt when facing their old foe, and the football they produced after that display was arguably their greatest of the Premier League era.

Liverpool are just as good as United now. The extremely odd behaviour of Alex Ferguson – desperately grasping at anything that can unstable or damage Benitez, a man finally not afraid to challenge him – suggests that he knows it too.

With a couple of additions, those small cracks ironed out and maybe Benitez slackening his grip on his team’s leash more often, there is a good chance that we’ll be discussing the reasons why Liverpool are 2009/10 champions on these pages in a year’s time.



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22 Comments :

Richie Lunt said...

As if it wasn't bad enough to hear idiot mancs on yoss last night telling us why we ARN'T champions and how much respect we should give them, we now have our own doing it?

TWO GAMES LEFT last time I checked and United still haven't won it no matter how likely it is.

I despair with our fanbase sometimes, I really do!

Anonymous said...

If you think they're not going to get a point from their next two games Richie then you're either in a fantasy world or you've started on the drink a bit early.

Very good read.

Anonymous said...

One of the best pages iv read in a long time...

Theres no beating around the bush, weve conceded the title, but the positives, like you mentioned, are in abundance. I truely believe the title WILL be ours next season...

The areas which we could have inproved on are painful to admit, but your spot on...

I would add that i wish Benitez had strengthened the right hand flank aswell over last summer as i feel it needed it. The evidence from Riera's impact shows that when we play wide football the positives are endless...

Its also painful that i have Babel at the back of my shirt. I truely believed he will be the addition that would bring that flair and dynamic play to our team. But, i think Benitez could have done better in the way he raised him at the club. Not saying Babels a baby, but i just feel some players have a certain quality that really need a specific understanding to know how to use it. I dont think he will be with us next season and if thats the case then i think we will miss him. We all know that where ever he goes he'll tear the defences apart...
Anyway, enough said, YNWA till i die...

Blankie :)

Anonymous said...

This has got to be the most cynical liverpool website on the internet. A few up beat articles never hurt anyone.

Anonymous said...

"Credit to United - it is the best team in the division that wins the league title, but there remains a nagging doubt that this year, finally, it should have been Liverpool."

Why? Liverpool have improved a lot, but they weren't able to improve enough. Why should they leapfrog both Man. U. and Chelsea after being nowhere last season?

"Rafa Benitez is likely to look at the seven home games between November and February, from which Fulham, West Ham, Hull, Everton and Man City all escaped Anfield with a point."

True enough. They weren't quite consistent enough. But if they finish with 86 points and beat Chelsea to second, then that's a lot of progress in one season. It's mischievous to suggest that because they improved a lot, they should have won it. They drew a lot because they didn't quite have Man U's killer instinct.

"Robbie Keane

First things first, the Irishman is a quality player, his short-lived stay on Merseyside shouldn’t detract from that, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Keane’s style often depends on slowing things down and playing with his back to goal, the exact opposite of what much of Rafa’s Liverpool is about."

I don't think Keane had any strongly positive or negative affect on Liverpool this season. It would have helped if he could have adequately filled in during Torres' absences, but he didn't really. Nevertheless, he did score one or two important goals.

"Liverpool’s two goalless games with the Potters weren’t classics, and it could easily be argued that the Reds were unlucky in both - Gerrard had a goal wrongly chalked off early in the first clash, and hit the post late in the second – but defeat would have been harsh on Stoke in both."

Why would defeat have been harsh on Stoke at Anfield? Gerrard scored a clear goal that was wrongly chalked off. The only reason for saying this is that--if the goal had been given--the potters would have lost 1-0. Lots of teams lose 1-0--Chelsea, for example (and the Arsenal of old) used to make a habit of winning their games 1-0. The result of the away game was just another occasion when Liverpool weren't quite good enough.

"Installed as title favourites at the beginning of the year, the Reds wobbled under the pressure, drawing their first three league games of 2009. "

Who installed them as 'title favourites' at the beginning of the year? I think the most sagacious and neutral pundits were still backing United to come good (and of course, they did) at that time.

"How close would Liverpool have got the title had the little Arsenal forward only scored three goals at Anfield? It’s impossible to tell, but on a night when Liverpool played their very own version of Russian roulette, the two points dropped ensured that the Reds had shot themselves in the foot."

Arsenal is a very good team and you can expect problems from them both home and away.

"With one swing of his right boot, the youngster had blown away all of the vulnerability of the previous weeks. United have won every game since. Other players may have contributed more to United’s season, but Macheda’s moment restored the swagger and confidence that was so clearly lacking."

If Yossi benayoun had done that, we'd just say what a telling strike it was. Macheda is a United player and he pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Good teams have players who are able to do that.

"Fernando Torres’ hamstrings

Of all the stats to come out of this Premiere League season, surely the most staggering is this; Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres have started just a third of Liverpool’s games together."

For me, this statistic is the one that should make us all appreciate how wonderfully well Liverpool has done this year. Given the percentage of games missed by Torres and Gerrard, I wouldn't have given a cat in Hell's chance of the team finishing the season with 85 or 86 points.

"Between late November and early February United won an astonishing eight out of 11 games by one goal to nil, with three of those wins coming via late goals."

That's what top teams do. Well done United.

"Liverpool were rightly praised all season for their stirring comebacks and late winning goals. Middlesbrough, Man City, Portsmouth and Fulham were all beaten with the vital strike coming in stoppage time - with countless other goals coming late in the day – but the Reds were also on the receiving end of late drama."

This is bound to happen several times in a season.

Ryan Babel

"In an excellent season for Liverpool collectively, there were few disappointments, but one of them was undoubtedly Babel. After a very good first campaign for a young player in a foreign land, this was to be the season when Babel kicked on and elevated his game to a new level."

Hardly a factor in not winning the PL. As you go on to say, Riera and Benayoun more than compensated.

Liverpool shouldn’t be too downhearted at Manchester United’s success this season. The Reds have shown remarkable progress in a very short space of time. The 4-1 win at Old Trafford should blow away the inferiority complex that Liverpool often felt when facing their old foe, and the football they produced after that display was arguably their greatest of the Premier League era.

Liverpool are just as good as United now. The extremely odd behaviour of Alex Ferguson – desperately grasping at anything that can unstable or damage Benitez, a man finally not afraid to challenge him – suggests that he knows it too.

"With a couple of additions, those small cracks ironed out and maybe Benitez slackening his grip on his team’s leash more often, there is a good chance that we’ll be discussing the reasons why Liverpool are 2009/10 champions on these pages in a year’s time."

Thoroughly agree with this assessment.

The most important reason why Liverpool didn't win the PL this year is down to a fantastic run of form by Man United. Since becoming world champions, they have won almost every game with the exception of the Liverpool and Fulham games. Kudos to Liverpool for shooting such a great team down in flames (at Old Trafford) when no one else could do it.

Roll on next year!

Richie Lunt said...

@ anon and Ian.

"ARE NOT" is a definitive statement that can clearly not be made at this time. "Probably not" "more than likely not" or any variation would have been acceptable, but if you are 100% ready to give the title to United before it is mathematically impossible then I suggest you take a good long look about what it means to follow Liverpool F.C.

We are Liverpool F.C and we are known throughout the world for two things, our spirit and our history and they both go hand in hand on and off the pitch.

This is a forum and as such people are entitled to their own OPINIONS but if you state something as fact then you better be ready to back that up and in this occassion it is simply impossible to do so.

United once won a European Cup in the dying minutes, credit to the horrible bastards for that BUT we've had so much more against us than that throughout our whole history and we always come out fighting and it is our success against the odds that has come to define who we are to both ourselves and outsiders.

Ferguson is getting plaudits left right and centre, whose model is he following? Give you a clue, it isn't the "United way" and he has made it abundantly clear from day one he was inspired by Shankly, Paisley and Liverpool which is in my opinion along with some sad circumstances for us why he was able to get the better of us. The reason why he has been able to stay their is unlike Liverpool he stayed true to his beliefs, beliefs he took from US!

IF/WHEN United get that point then you can tell me why we didn't win the league, until then you are no better than any manc who is counting their chickens before they hatch.

The mancs in their team and in their fanbase have a level of belief that to others borders on the delusional, to me this is just another reason they have been able to do as well as they have. Again, guess where they got it from?

I'm not saying we should all be deluded and for once I actually believe next season we can get there, what I am saying is where is the sense and pride in giving someone the title and accolades that come with it before it is even won?

United want respect from us and yet have totally written off Arsenal and Hull and the possibility we could win our last 2 games. Respect is earned.

Richie Lunt said...

Note to self: there, their, they're

I have no idea why I keep messing them up when I know what they all mean!

Anonymous said...

I totally agreed on that part about babel. I feel that Benitez should sell any player who is unhappy. You can't afford to waste a lot of energy on them as it only causes division in the team and its focus in the game they are supposed to play against. They are not worth to be kept happy as they are double-minded and disrespect to the club.

To wear that jersey, you must prove that you are worthy to wear it, be proud of it and give your very best, not whining.

Very rarely, you heard players from our opposition teams, especially Man U, voices out their unhappiness publicly. Look at Ferguson, he shows no mercy on such double-minded players whom he felt that they are not fit to wear their jersy and would sell them away immediately. Classic example, gabriel heniz... No players should be indispensable in his football management philosophy.

I think Benitez should start ruling with an iron fist now and no nonsense from unhappy players, who are also double-minded. These unhappy players will only waver the team's spirit. To wear the Red Jersey, you must play with your whole heart and gives respect to anyone who is wearing it.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Luntie...it's over when it's over - not before.

Tired of these alleged fans we seem to have picked up somewhere along the way...wish we could simply shake them off the souls of our shoes...

KOPITE said...

I dont get why some muppets on here are easily prepared to concede the title to those filthy mancs. I echo the sentiments by anon about our spirit and history. I wouldnt be surprised if those in favour of this article are the co writers J.K and Co.... On that note when is JK gona reply to my mg on the torres/gerrard facts n figures article?

IT AINT OVER TILL THE FAT LDY SINGS.... AND I AINT SEEN ROONEYS MAA YET!

Anonymous said...

"Ferguson is getting plaudits left right and centre, whose model is he following? Give you a clue, it isn't the "United way" and he has made it abundantly clear from day one he was inspired by Shankly, Paisley and Liverpool..."
----------
Actually, no. I'm sure he respects what those managers did for your football club but SAF's aim was to re-create the Matt Busby era. I think he's made a pretty good job of it.

Snippy said...

to anon (7:34) - so the intelligent, articulate fan who's written this, who actually has an opinion, should be shaken off the souls of liverpool's shoes should he? and for what? there is barely anything negative in the post, and saying that united hav won the league 2 days before they will? seems like good sense to me!

Anonymous said...

how can you say ryan babel is one of the reasons why we heaven't won the league this season? the boy hasnt been given the chance. hes started 6 league games this season and made 20 appearences from the ebnch. in a league like the premiership it is so hard to come fof the ebcnh and make an impact on the game. the reason we have lost the league (if we do) is because of silly draws against teams like stoke and losses against middlesborough and spurs.

Anonymous said...

i think he just needed a number 10 mate! and he mentions the stuff you do as well. very good review of liverpool's season, sad to see some commenters jumping on irrelevant stuff...

Richie Lunt said...

@anon 10:32

sorry but I don't agree, there is far too much evidence that suggests that Ferguson was driven by his respect for Liverpool which became a healthy (or not so depending how you look at it) rivalry and has inspired him to be United's greatest ever manager.

Even if what you say about Busby is true, he would not have been the same manager had he not spent time at not only Liverpool but also Man City. Now I can't tell you much about how he got on at City as I don't follow their history. What I can tell you is that at Liverpool he was our captain and considered one of the best players to wear the red shirt by those who speak of him, a fact conveniently and quickly forgotten by some Liverpudlians, alright most to be honest.

The flip side to that coin is that a large part of Paisley's football career on and off the pitch was his friendship with Matt Busby and so it is hard to believe that a man he looked up to so much would have had little or no affect on the manager he became in my eyes.

I think Liverpool are intrinsically linked to each other and are destined to be so probably until the end of time one way or another. :P

In a completely unbias way though I honestly believe that United owe a great deal more to Liverpool for who they are and have become than vice versa.

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Richie,

agree largely with what you've said particularly about not conceding the title before it is mathematically impossible. I still can't help but hope that United fall at the last hurdle for us to triumph.

However,I disagree that our success against the odds defines us as a club. I think that it has great significance to the current team but mainly that has come from the Istanbul result.

For a considerable period Liverpool didn't battle against the odds, we came, we saw and we conquered consistantly and emphatically. We weren't a team of underdogs scrapping to plucky wins, we were the best and looked to prove it every week.

I think our pride in our history and our hope for the future define us as a club more than our ability to battle against the odds. This is aligned to an understanding of the scars of football and a determination to rid the game of those negatives.

Richie Lunt said...

@ anon 3:08pm

I know where you are coming from but I think this is where those from Liverpool like myself (don't know if you are or not) see things differently.

If you grew up in Liverpool you came to realise from an early age that we are different to the rest of the country. There are numerous reasons for this and I'm not going to go too far into them but it is these reasons off the pitch that have shaped our club just as much if not more so than those that happened on the pitch.

From a Football poin of view in Europe we were always seen as the unfashionable side and we have never won the European Cup as favourites even at a time when we opened the door to complete european domination to english clubs.

77 was a shock, we came from practically nowhere, we were never supposed to get past the quarters and we nearly didn't!

78 people knew who we were but assumed 77 was a fluke and that a fly by night side like ours couldn't possibly win back to back European cups, that was the honour reserved for the likes of Real Madrid. Brugge were the surprise finalists knocking out the fancied Italians Juve but they couldn't stop us despite a proud performance and one of the most unlikely cup runs in the competition thanks to a goal from the King himself.

81 By now Europe more than knew what we were all about but at the same time Forest were surely the English club to bring it back home as they had in 80? Assuming of course they could get by Inter or Real!

84 we couldn't go and beat the Italian Champions in their own back yard could we? Yes we could thought it would take a nail biting penalty shoot out to do so.

We have been favourites in a final twice, once took a very unlikely cup run from a European minnow in the form of Brugges and the other was the rematch v Milan, a "rivalry" which had been cultivated in 05 by the fact that according to each and every bookie and indeed a lot of Liverpool fans, given those two sides, we should never have walked off the field champions.

With all that said I understand where you are coming from and Istanbul has been of massive significance from the expectations it heigtened to the fact without it Rafa would probably not be here.

As for being the best every week, that's true but a large part of why we were the best is the passion and spirit we showed and the determination to never give up and fight for everything.

In our case the tag of underdog can change but the mentality, well I doubt that ever will. Liverpool as a city and a club no matter what it achieves will always be seen by many as the underdog.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of the writers on this website are actually from Liverpool?

Mark said...

Hello anon (5:40). I live in Liverpool, I have a season ticket, and I wrote this, so thanks to everyone for all the comments (positive and negative). Sorry if the fact that it appeared before we were mathematically unable to win the league offended anyone, but I had a deadline and it was meant more as a review of Liverpool's season, the good and bad (which you'd realise if you didn't jump to conclusions). I think the title of it has got a few people carried away, which is understandable I suppose, but I promise you I'm as positive as the next Red (as the bit at the bottom would tell you if you'd care to read it).

Anonymous said...

If we want to win next premier we must buy Tevez and Barry. We should sell N'gog, Babel, Lucas, Dosena, etc. We should have also in mind Valencia, the Wigan Player.

Anonymous said...

30 goals from torres next season. 25 from stevie g. another 15 from kuyt. and 20 from tevez. 19 titles for the pool!

Anonymous said...

Richie Lunt,

You're right. You have your history and your spirit. Which is why next year, another league trophyless year will be added to that history.

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