Thursday, December 27, 2007

Derby 1-2 Liverpool


Steven Gerrard's last-gasp goal spared Liverpool's blushes at lowly Derby.
Fernando Torres' superb goal had given Liverpool an early lead as the Spaniard scored after beating two defenders.
But Liverpool failed to take a number of chances and Jay McEveley sent an angled shot past Jose Reina to equalise midway through the second half.
Gerrard then crashed the ball against the bar, but with time running out the Liverpool captain was on hand to score after Lewis Price saved from Torres

Gerrard had had a relatively quiet game before the Derby equaliser, but he came into his own as Liverpool searched for the winner.
Liverpool had beaten Derby 6-0 earlier in the season and once Torres put them ahead on 12 minutes the visitors should have extended their advantage by the interval.
Jamie Carragher and Ryan Babel had reasonable chances, while Torres and John Arne Riise were thwarted by some well-timed tackles.
Derby had come close to winning at Newcastle on Sunday and had it not been for Gerrard they might have won for the first time under manager Paul Jewell.
The Derby manager had lost first-choice goalkeeper Stephen Bywater in the warm-up after he aggravated a shoulder injury and Stephen Pearson was another casualty to emerge from this game.
With Liverpool already ahead thanks to Torres' goal, the Scot dislocated his shoulder as both he and Darren Moore went for the same ball.
For the last 15 minutes Derby were virtually playing with 10 men, when having brought on all three substiutes, Rob Earnshaw was unable to contribute after he injured his calf.
Moore played a less than distinguished role in Liverpool's opener as Torres managed to push the ball through the Derby defender's legs.
Having established plenty of momentum, Torres eased his way past Dean Leacock before curling a shot past Bywater's replacement Price into the corner of the net.
Liverpool's Spanish striker was soon streaking away from the Derby defence, though this time McEveley denied Torres with a saving tackle.
Tyrone Mears proved just as diligent as he slid in to take the ball away from Riise as the Norwegian burst clear.
Derby's best two first-half chances fell to Giles Barnes, who almost reached Gary Teale's cross with Reina stranded.
And in first-half stoppage time Barnes worked some space just outside the Liverpool box only to miscue with his shot.
Derby made a postive start after the break and Teale's beautifully weighted pass freed Kenny Miller, who was let down by his first touch.
But Derby were rewarded for their more upbeat approach when Lewis' free-kick pinged around the Liverpool box before McEveley pounced to shoot past Reina.
Liverpool peppered Price's goals with shots but the Derby goalkeeper produced a couple of excellent saves from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso.
Barnes then missed with a close-range header, while Gerrard crashed a shot against the crossbar.
But Gerrard came to Liverpool's rescue as he prodded home after Price had made a reaction save to deny Torres and McEveley could only steer the ball into the path of the Reds captain.
Derby manager Paul Jewell:"There's not much justice in the game, particularly after battling so hard in the second half.
"I was bitterly disappointed with the first-half display, we looked frightened, scared of Liverpool.
"I couldn't wait to get at them at half-time, but in the second half we showed fight, and that is what the supporters want to see."
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"We were much better in the first half, but we could not kill the game off.
"That made it difficult for us. In the second half they were more aggressive and put us under a lot of pressure.
"We gave the ball away too much but in the end Gerrard scored, a player like that will always come to the fore in the end."
Derby: Price, Mears, Leacock, Moore (Feilhaber 46), McEveley, Teale (Earnshaw 56), Barnes, Pearson (Johnson 26), Lewis, Howard, Miller.Subs Not Used: Hinchliffe, Fagan.
Booked: McEveley.
Goals: McEveley 67.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia (Benayoun 54), Carragher, Riise, Babel (Kuyt 72), Gerrard, Alonso, Aurelio, Torres, Voronin (Lucas 90).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Goals: Torres 12, Gerrard 90.
Att: 33,029
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

TORRES TO RESCUE FOR RAFA


FERNANDO Torres produced a piece of pure individual magic last night to set Liverpool on their way to the knock-out stages of the European Cup.
Rafael Benitez can breathe again after his team’s comfortable 4-0 win over Marseille in France secured their passage, but the list of possible opponents in the next stage is daunting and includes Barcelona, Real Madrid and both Milans.

But Benitez can now go into talks over his future with the club’s American owners tomorrow buoyed by a recent run of results that culminated last night with this emphatic victory.

Liverpool’s nerves were settled after just four minutes when Steven Gerrard converted a penalty – on the rebound – after he had been hauled down in the box.

Then, seven minutes later, Torres ghosted past a clutch of defenders before sliding the ball in. Dirk Kuyt applied the killer blow just after half-time and Ryan Babel added the fourth in injury time.

Marseille 0-4 Liverpool

Liverpool overwhelmed Marseille to win a third successive Champions League Group A game and reach the last 16.
Steven Gerrard won a penalty on four minutes and although his spot-kick was saved by Steve Mandanda, the Liverpool captain crashed home the rebound.
Fernando Torres then scored a superb solo goal, beating a posse of Marseille players before curling the ball in.
Early in the second half Dirk Kuyt swept home a third and in stoppage time Ryan Babel broke clear for the fourth.
The victory capped a remarkable recovery in Liverpool's Champions League campaign, given that after three games Rafael Benitez's side had found themselves bottom of the group with just one point.
Three years ago Liverpool's final Champions League group game against Olympiakos at Anfield had required a spectacular late Gerrard goal to secure a dramatic passage to the knockout rounds.
The Marseille tie looked even more tense potentially, but two goals inside the opening 11 minutes provided the platform for a comfortable victory.
Just as he had done against Olympiakos, Gerrard proved pivotal, with the skipper having an eventful start to the game.
Kuyt's pass from the kick-off was too short and Gerrard was left writhing in agony as he was tackled by Mamadou Niang.
He took a couple of minutes to shake off the injury, but when Gerrard had recovered the spring in his step he won the penalty that led to Liverpool's opening goal.
A neat interchange between Kuyt and Torres set free the marauding Gerrard who powered his way to the Marseille penalty area.
Gael Givet's sliding tackle was badly misjudged providing Gerrard with the chance to put Liverpool ahead from the penalty spot.
Gerrard passed up that opportunity as Mandanda got a hand to his penalty kick, but the Liverpool captain was quick to smash the rebound into the roof of the net.
Torres's goal was beautifully executed.
After receiving a pass from Harry Kewell, the Spanish striker scooped the ball round Julien Rodriguez to create a slither of space in front of Mandanda's goal.
And Torres finished off his scintillating approach play with a rolled pass into the corner of the goal.
With Marseille showing little signs of troubling Liverpool's defence the French club's coach Eric Gerets introduced the French young player of the year Samir Nasri just past the half-hour.
The French international had an immediate impact, lifting the spirits of the Marseille crowd and winning a couple of free-kicks.
But Liverpool weathered Nasri's arrival and Gerrard went close with a free-kick as did Kewell with a volley.
Torres continued to torment Rodriguez, ghosting past the former Rangers defender, only to lift his shot over the bar.
At the restart Gerets made his second substitution, throwing on Djibril Cisse, but rather than revive the Marseille cause the former Liverpool striker found himself looking on as Kuyt extended Liverpool's lead.
Mandanda's poor clearance only reached Kewell and the Australian's quick-thinking and pass found Kuyt unmarked in the box.
The Dutchman paused to consider his options before sweeping the ball past Mandanda.
Cisse went close with a header for Marseille, but Liverpool added a fourth in stoppage time as substitute Babel ran clear and then past Mandanda to slip the ball into an empty net.
Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Rodriguez, Givet (Faty 45), Taiwo, Cheyrou (Nasri 34), Ziani, Zenden (Cisse 46), Cana, Valbuena, Niang. Subs Not Used: Mate, Oruma, Zubar, M'Bami.
Booked: Cana.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Kewell (Aurelio 67), Mascherano, Gerrard, Benayoun, Kuyt (Lucas 86), Torres (Babel 77).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Finnan, Crouch, Hobbs.
Booked: Carragher, Aurelio.
Goals: Gerrard 4, Torres 11, Kuyt 48, Babel 90.

Att: 53,000
Ref: Terje Hauge (Norway).

Sami Hyypia insists Liverpool are still in the title race

Veteran defender Sami Hyypia has denied Liverpool are now facing mission impossible in the title race following yesterday’s defeat by Manchester United.
The Reds started the campaign with high hopes of ending their 17-year championship drought and despite some inconsistent form on home soil were well placed to make their move until 10 days ago.
Although Rafael Benitez’s side have secured a financially imperative place in the knock-out phase of the Champions League, the outstanding four-goal win in Marseille has been sandwiched by the loss of Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League record at Reading and yet another defeat to United at Anfield.
The latest loss against their fierce north-west rivals - their fifth in six seasons - has left the Merseyside giants nine points behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Arsenal.
Admittedly, Liverpool do have a game in hand but, after picking up just two points in three meetings with their fellow ’Big Four’ members this term, the evidence is not pointing towards the end of that long wait for a 19th title.
Nevertheless, Hyypia is refusing to be downcast.
The Finland star is convinced Liverpool proved they were United’s equals yesterday.
And, while he accepts his team-mates have a lot to do in order to haul themselves back into contention, Hyypia believes they are up to the task.
“It is not the end of the world,” he said.
“Of course, if you think about 10 points it is quite a lot but I don’t believe it is a major obstacle to clear and it is certainly not impossible.
“It would have been an important game to win but we didn’t manage it, so we have to remained focused on each individual game and see where we are in May.”
For the second season running, Liverpool were undone by a set piece, fatally failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area when Ryan Giggs took a corner and then leaving Carlos Tevez on his own too as he turned home the England striker’s shot.
It is the kind of mistake that Benitez must eradicate if his team are to stand a chance of getting themselves back into the championship fight, although Hyypia feels there are plenty of positives to draw from the defeat as well.
“Manchester United achieved what they came for; a clean sheet and they also managed to sneak a goal,” he said.
“But there were lots of positives for us too.”
The worry for Liverpool fans is that while Arsenal, Chelsea and, now, United have all been to Anfield, they are still to play away from home against any of their major rivals.
Hyypia acknowledges it is imperative to inflict some damage when the Merseysiders go on their travels and is optimistic they can do just that.
“Our away form has been better than the home form so I am confident we will get something out of those games away,” he said.
“The matches against the other teams in the big four are very important. We have to catch them and we know for sure if we win those games our rivals cannot get any points.”
Ironically, Liverpool face one of their major rivals on Wednesday when they visit Chelsea looking to book a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals.
The Reds have enjoyed plenty of success against the Londoners in cup combat over recent times, including two thrilling Champions League semi-final wins.
However, Hyypia accepts history will count for nothing at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t want to look at the records at all,” he said.
“Every game is different - we go there to win and do our best.”

Liverpool 0-1 Man Utd

Carlos Tevez's first-half winner gave Manchester United a priceless victory at title rivals Liverpool.
Tevez was lurking to turn in Wayne Rooney's driven shot from a Ryan Giggs corner three minutes before half-time.
Liverpool had earlier come close, but Anderson scrambled Harry Kewell's shot off the line and Fernando Torres sent a header inches wide.
Rooney wasted a great chance to double United's lead late on, but he side-footed wide from only six yards.
It made uncomfortable viewing for Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, at Anfield before their summit meeting with boss Rafael Benitez after their recent disagreements.
The defeat leaves the Merseysiders outside the top four and nine points behind arch rivals United.
Liverpool, unchanged for only the third time in Benitez's reign, created the clearer openings in a disjointed first 45 minutes.
Jamie Carragher's 27th-minute header created confusion in the United penalty area, and when Anderson cleared Kewell's shot off the line, Torres headed just wide.
United were under pressure again three minutes later when keeper Edwin van der Sar misjudged Steven Gerrard's free-kick.
The ball bounced towards goal off Rio Ferdinand's head, but once again Evra was alert to clear as Dirk Kuyt closed in.
United capped their best spell of the game by taking the lead three minutes before the interval.
Liverpool boss Benitez was left fuming as his side failed to mark Rooney from Giggs' corner, and when the former Everton star lashed the ball into the danger area, Tevez was on hand to turn home from six yards out.
United were surviving in relative comfort, and Benitez made an inevitable change after 65 minutes, replacing the disappointing Kewell with Ryan Babel, with Kuyt quickly following as Peter Crouch came on.
It at least sparked Liverpool's best effort of the game as Babel shot inches wide from 25 yards after collecting Wes Brown's poor header.
Rooney then wasted a glorious opportunity to seal the points for United at the end of a lightning break, but he shot hopelessly wide from close range from Cristiano Ronaldo's pass.
Liverpool pressed, but lacked any ideas going forward and United's defensive resilience earned the three points.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise (Aurelio 80), Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kewell (Babel 65), Torres, Kuyt (Crouch 73). Subs Not Used: Itandje, Lucas.
Booked: Gerrard, Mascherano.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Anderson (O'Shea 90), Giggs, Rooney, Tevez (Carrick 83). Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Saha, Fletcher.
Booked: Evra, Anderson, Brown.
Goals: Tevez 43.
Att: 44,459.
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reading 3-1 Liverpool

Reading handed Liverpool their first league defeat of the season as they claimed a richly deserved home win.
Stephen Hunt's penalty put Reading in front after Jamie Carragher fouled Brynjar Gunnarsson, but Steven Gerrard soon equalised with a cool finish.
Liverpool hit the bar through Gerrard, but Kevin Doyle's glancing header on 58 minutes put Reading back in front.
James Harper scored a fine third and Reading, with the help of the post, kept the Reds at bay for the remainder.
In the build-up to the match, Reading boss Steve Coppell had asked the home fans to make more noise and his players certainly gave the supporters something to shout about with a committed and energetic team performance.
It was end-to-end stuff in the early stages, with the emphasis on speed rather than quality, and it took a defensive mistake to break the deadlock.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez gave young centre-back Jack Hobbs his first Premier League start, but it was a foul by the vastly experienced Carragher which led to the Reds falling behind on 15 minutes.
Carragher brought Gunnarsson down as the Reading midfielder burst forward and referee Andre Marriner, despite vehement Liverpool protests, decided the offence was inside the box, giving Hunt the chance to convert from the spot.
The goal sparked a brief purple patch for Reading as they began to stretch Liverpool, with Bobby Convey's screamer from the edge of the box going close after a precise passing move.
Reading's lead did not last long though, as their porous defence crumbled to concede their 33rd Premier League goal of the season.
Torres controlled Pepe Reina's punt upfield under no pressure from Ibrahima Sonko before squaring the ball to Gerrard, and the England midfielder shrugged off Hunt and passed into the net for his ninth goal in 10 games.
Sonko's questionable challenge on Torres led to half-hearted appeals for a Liverpool penalty, but replays suggested the centre-back had got a touch of the ball.
The half ended with Liverpool well on top but they were unable to fashion a clear-cut chance despite a couple of decent self-made efforts from Andriy Voronin.
Liverpool started the second period purposefully, with Torres flashing a diving header just wide from Peter Crouch's cross.
A comical piece of defending from Gunnarsson, who played the entire Liverpool team onside from a free-kick before belatedly rushing out, gave Hobbs the chance to mark his full league debut with a goal but the 19-year-old smashed the ball into the stands.
John Arne Riise's trademark swerving free-kick drew a fine save from Hahnemann as Liverpool pressed hard for a second goal and Gerrard went even closer with a brilliant strike from distance which rattled off the bar.
The near miss proved a decisive moment as 60 seconds later Doyle just got a touch to Nicky Shorey's dangerous free-kick into the box to give his side the lead.
If there was a hint of fortune about Doyle's effort, there was no doubt whatsoever about the quality of Harper's goal soon after.
The midfielder took a clever pass back inside from Convey and outstripped Riise before clinically rounding Reina and slotting home on 66 minutes.
Liverpool tried to get back into the game, although they were not helped by Benitez's decision to bring Gerrard off with 20 minutes to go, with Harry Kewell going close and Crouch just missing making contact with a low Carragher ball into the box.
Crouch went even closer moments later as he hit the post with a well-struck effort from outside the box, but Reading were good value for a win that takes them up to 12th in the table.
· Reading boss Steve Coppell:
"To get a good result against a top side is pleasing but this season is a grind - there's five more months to go.
"We needed to be seen to be having a go and I think the fans can have a few pints and be happy.
"Results against big teams won't decide our season but it's a good feeling and hopefully a solid foundation."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez on the two key penalty decisions:
"For me (Jamie Carragher's foul) was clearly outside the area. Normally it would be a yellow card but it wasn't because the ref wasn't sure.
"I think it was clear Fernando Torres was fouled, but we can't change the result - I won't use that as an excuse.
"But the key was that we had some chances and we could not take them. I'm not happy with the goals we conceded."
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Cisse 90), Sonko (Bikey 81), Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt, Harper, Gunnarsson, Convey (Lita 88), Doyle, Kitson.Subs Not Used: Federici, Long.
Goals: Hunt 17 pen, Doyle 60, Harper 67.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher (Hyypia 82), Hobbs, Riise, Gerrard (Babel 71), Mascherano, Sissoko, Voronin, Torres (Kewell 61), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kuyt.
Booked: Gerrard.
Goals: Gerrard 28.
Att: 24,022
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Monday, December 3, 2007

Liverpool 4-0 Bolton

Liverpool climbed to third after beating struggling Bolton at Anfield.
Steven Gerrard created both first-half goals, first sending over a free-kick that was headed in by Sami Hyypia.
After Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka missed an open goal, Gerrard rolled a pass into the path of Fernando Torres who chipped keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The Liverpool captain added a third with a second-half penalty after Abdoulaye Meite fouled Peter Crouch, and Ryan Babel tapped in the fourth.
How Anelka failed to equalise when Bolton were trailing by a single goal, only the Frenchman will know.
The ball landed at Anelka's feet after Pepe Reina and Jamie Carragher collided in trying to clear a Kevin Davies pass, but with the goal at his mercy the former Liverpool striker shot wide.
Had Anelka scored the course of this game might have been different, but Torres' goal a minute before half-time made Bolton's task of taking any points almost impossible.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez partnered Torres and Crouch in attack for the first time in the Premier League.
The two have played in the Carling Cup as well as the Champions League, but on the evidence of this game their attacking partnership remains very much a work in progress.
Torres, who received a huge ovation when he was taken off in the second half, completely overshadowed Crouch.
As well as winning the penalty, Crouch did go close in one of Liverpool's early attacks when his goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by Lubomir Michalik, but this was not one of his most effective games.
While Anelka endeared himself to his old club's fans with that awful miss, El-Hadji Diouf earned the opprobrium of the Anfield crowd with a horrendous tackle on Alvaro Arbeloa.
Diouf complained long and hard over the yellow card, but given the way he raked his studs down Arbeloa's leg the Senegalese player was lucky not to be sent off.
It was from a free-kick that Liverpool took the lead, Gerrard whipping over the ball and Hyypia getting the faintest of glances to beat Jaaskelainen with a header.
A minute before the interval Gerrard and Torres combined to punish Anelka's profligacy.
If Gerrard's curling pass to release Torres was exquisite, the Spaniard's finish probably bettered it.
Torres gently lifted the ball over the advancing Jaaskelainen, in a finish reminiscent of Kenny Dalglish's winning goal against Bruges in the European Cup final of 1978.
The second half proved a formality for Liverpool, with Crouch's emphatically taken penalty further extending their lead.
Just before being substituted Torres zigzagged his way past a succession of Bolton defenders, only to then send his shot over the bar.
Dirk Kuyt replaced Torres and the Dutchman played a key role in Liverpool's fourth goal.
Jaaskelainen was unable to hold Kuyt's shot and Babel had the simplest of jobs to roll the ball into the empty net.
Soon after Babel might have had a second goal, but Meite did well to head off the line.
Liverpool are still unbeaten in the Premier League, but their title credentials are likely to be given a more rigorous assessment in a fortnight when Manchester United travel to Anfield.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"The team had confidence and you can see that in the number of chances we are creating.
"We're trying to keep the momentum, but we're in a good position, much better than last season.
"The second goal was important as it gave us more space and they had to change their shape."
· Bolton manager Gary Megson:"It was a poor day for us, but we will pick up ourselves up.
"There will be no knee-jerk reaction. Given Nicolas Anelka's status it was a poor miss, but there were many other things that didn't go for us.
"I'm most disappointed about the first goal as we didn't get our best headers on it. You learn from adversity and we'll see how we react to this."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher (Hobbs 51), Riise, Benayoun, Gerrard, Lucas, Kewell (Babel 67), Torres (Kuyt 76), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Goals: Hyypia 17, Torres 45, Gerrard 56 pen, Babel 86.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Samuel, Meite, Michalik, Gardner, McCann, Campo, Speed, Davies, Anelka, Diouf (Giannakopoulos 66).Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Wilhelmsson, Teymourian, Alonso.
Booked: Diouf, Campo, Michalik.
Att: 43,270
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

Liverpool 4 Porto 1: Torres displays striker's instinct to prolong Liverpool's European life

Rafael Benitez made an impromptu speech last night in praise of the fans who sang his name at Anfield and marched through the streets in support of him before the game, but he will know in his heart who really served up the rescue act last night. Chants and protests are all very nice but nothing counted quite as much as the two goals scored by Fernando Torres.
Into the last game of the Champions League group stage and Liverpool have to beat Marseilles in the Stade Velodrome on 11 December for a place in the knockout round. No small task, but when you compare it to the tumult of the last week the basics of winning football matches will be a welcome departure from the politics of Benitez's feud with his club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. A feud the Spanish coach was still trying desperately to defuse last night.
First the football: three goals in 12 minutes turned a game heading nowhere featuring a team facing Champions League oblivion into a match worthy of Anfield's European pantheon. At 1-1, Liverpool were heading out of the competition, but Torres' brilliant second goal of the match and a flourish from Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch gave this game a scoreline that scarcely reflected the full scope of the match. All three came after the introduction of Crouch, who is saving the skin of a manager who can hardly bring himself to pick the Englishman.
Then the politics: Benitez has been backtracking for two days straight over his fall-out with the Americans so last night he made sure there was no mistake. Having first said he wanted to thank the fans "because as always they were magnificent" he went on to placate the bosses. When it came to the owners it was, Benitez said, "nothing personal". "We were talking about the future of the club and some issues," he said. "I don't have any personal problems. I was not angry, I was just surprised a little."
Surprised at what? He was, Benitez said, just acting in the best interests of the club. "I have read things about my ego, it's not my ego, it's my responsibility," he said. "I take care of the team and the squad because I want to do it. It would be easier for me to say nothing and just take my wages but I prefer to be involved and I think they understand. I don't have any problems with them and we all want the best for the club."
It was wise not to make too much of the supporters fulsome backing of their manager for fear of taking sides against Hicks and Gillett although Benitez happily milked the adulation for most of the game. Up on his feet in the coaching area, he affected a kind of nonchalance that was fooling nobody – the sentiments of the Kop evidently meant a great deal to him. "Rafa's going nowhere," trilled the Liverpool fans at the end, although for long periods in between nothing was quite as clear cut.
This was not a convincing Liverpool performance until Crouch and Harry Kewell came on in the later stages to change the course of the game. Any one of Group A's four teams can still qualify after Besiktas beat Marseilles last night, and having hauled themselves back from the brink it would be crushing for Liverpool to throw it away now, although there was much to suggest in this performance that they might just do that.
Andriy Voronin, Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel were all dreadfully off the pace and until Torres scored the first goal on 19 minutes it was fair to say that the most exciting moment thus far had been whether Roy Keane would shake the hand of Carlos Queiroz when he found himself two seats away from the Manchester United assistant manager (he did). In the Anfield Road end someone held up a banner that said Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry was "a wolf in sheep's clothing". That disappeared as quickly as it came.
Whether in sheep's clothing or just a sheepskin jacket, Parry will not have been too discomfited by such a low-level protest. The Benitez chants started again when Torres broke the deadlock from a corner won by Steve Finnan and delivered by Gerrard. The Spanish striker was virtually unmarked when he headed down and past the Porto goalkeeper Helton.
It was not to last. On 36 minutes the winger Przemyslaw Kazmierczak crossed from the left and Lisandro Lopez found himself in enough space to cleverly direct his header back across goal from the side that Jose Reina had come. Back on level terms, Lopez nearly had a second three minutes later when Lucho sprung the offside trap and the Porto striker just put his shot wide.
It all changed on 78 minutes, Kewell fed the ball into Torres who held off Jose Bosingwa in the inside-right channel and slipped the ball past Helton. And from there, Porto proceeded to collapse. The brutal centre-back Milan Stepanov handled a cross and Gerrard slipped home the penalty. As Liverpool cruised, Crouch headed in Gerrard's corner with Helton nowhere. The Kop were singing Benitez's tune again.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa; Benayoun (Crouch, 71), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Kuyt, 85); Torres, Voronin (Kewell, 63). Substitutes not used: Itandje (gk), Riise, Leiva, Sissoko.
Porto (4-4-1-1): Helton; Bosingwa, Stepanov, Alves, Cech; M Gonzalez (Sektioui, 77), L Gonzalez, Assuncao (Postiga, 81), Kazmierczak (Meireles, 65); Quaresma; Lopez. Substitutes not used: Nuno (gk), Emanuel, Fucile, Bolatti.
Referee: R Rosetti (Italy)
Champions League Group A

Liverpool 4-1 FC Porto

Fernando Torres' double proved key to Liverpool's win over Porto to keep alive their Champions League hopes.
Torres headed in Steven Gerrard's corner to give Liverpool the lead, but Porto equalised with a header of their own, Lisandro Lopez nodding home.
Liverpool huffed and puffed in search of the second goal and on 78 minutes Torres curled a shot into the net.
Steven Gerrard's penalty made it 3-1 after Milan Stepanov's handball, with Peter Crouch heading in a fourth.
Liverpool must now beat Marseille in their final Group A game on 11 December to guarantee they will reach the knockout stages, but if Besitkas beat Porto a draw in France could be enough.
The scoreline suggests Liverpool won this game with something to spare but that was never the case and it was only with Torres' second goal that the home side began to breathe more easily.
Too many passes went astray and there was little of the pizzazz that had been on show in Saturday's 3-0 away win over Newcastle.
Ahead of the game over 2,000 fans had marched to Anfield from a nearby pub in support of manager Rafael Benitez over his very public row with club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
During the game there were plenty of supportive chants for Benitez and the crowd's mood was improved immeasurably by Torres' first goal.
When Porto rewatch the video of that goal, Stepanov and Lucho Gonzalez will want to avert their gaze.
As Gerrard swung over a corner Stepanov and Gonzalez could not make up their minds as to who should mark Torres.
The former Atletico Madrid striker needed no second invitation and proceeded to guide a downward header past Porto goalkeeper Helton.
Anfield might have been hoping for a reprise of the 8-0 thrashing of Besiktas in Liverpool's previous Champions League home game, but Porto had other ideas.
Przemyslaw Kazmierczak was allowed to cross from the left and Lopez got the better of Alvaro Arbeloa and powered a header past Pepe Reina.
That goal unsettled Liverpool and Lopez should have extended their lead, when with just Reina to beat, the Porto goalscorer put the ball narrowly wide of the post.
Torres was quickly back to work in the early stages of the second half, setting up Yossi Benayoun, but the Israeli international badly miscued his shot.
The desperate need for three points clearly got to Liverpool, and devoid of rhythm, chances began to dry up.
Benitez introduced Harry Kewell and Crouch and both of them played key roles in Liverpool's rousing finale.
Kewell dribbled the ball to the area before Torres took over, bending the ball round Helton.
After Torres' second goal, Porto imploded.
Stepanov gave Liverpool a penalty by handling a Gerrard free-kick and the England midfielder spot-kick was precisely placed in the corner as he wrongfooted Helton.
Another corner provided Liverpool's fourth, Gerrard swinging over the ball from the right and Crouch towering over the Porto defence to head in.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Benayoun (Crouch 71), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Kuyt 85), Voronin (Kewell 63), Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Lucas, Sissoko.
Booked: Hyypia.
Goals: Torres 19, 78, Gerrard 84 pen, Crouch 88.

FC Porto: Helton, Bosingwa, Stepanov, Bruno Alves, Cech, Mariano Gonzalez (Sektioui 77), Lucho Gonzalez, Paulo Assuncao (Postiga 81), Kazmierczak (Raul Meireles 65), Quaresma, Lopez.Subs Not Used: Nuno, Pedro Emanuel, Fucile, Bolatti.
Booked: Paulo Assuncao, Stepanov, Quaresma.
Goals: Lopez 33.
Att: 41,095
Ref: Roberto Rosetti (Italy).

'I don't have any personal problems with Hicks and Gillett'

Belated recoveries were not limited to Liverpool's Champions League campaign last night as Rafael Benítez took his first genuine steps towards repairing relations with the club's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
A fractious week inside Anfield ended with Benítez savouring the most emotional night of his Liverpool reign as supporters marched in support of the manager before kick-off and his players produced an ultimately impressive victory over Porto.
From a renewed position of strength it would not have been difficult for the Spaniard to reinforce his opposition to the transfer restrictions which had cast serious doubt on his future at the club. Instead, he made his clearest peace offering to the Americans, reluctantly accepting their revised work structure and insisting their relationship has not been irrevocably destroyed by his previous outbursts
. "I want to make it clear that I don't have any personal problems with the owners," said Benítez. "We were talking about some issues but it was nothing personal. I was not angry with them, just surprised. I was surprised with the situation in the end because I was trying to improve my club.
"OK, now I know I may have to wait but it was a strange situation. I was just trying to do my best for my club but I don't have any personal problems with Tom Hicks or George Gillett."
The Liverpool manager had suggested a thawing in the damaging dispute on the eve of the game but that merely extended to not aggravating his American employers any further.
He had previously infuriated the pair, and courted the sack, with two petulant public displays after their instructions to freeze his January transfer plans - an order that Benítez took as a lack of faith in his ability to bring the Premier League title to Anfield.
But last night he continued: "We need to talk in the future and we will see what happens then about transfers. This has never been about my ego, but it is my responsibility. I need to take care of my team, my squad and my club.
"It would be a lot easier for me to stay and do nothing, just pick up my wages at the end of each month but I want to be involved. We all want what is best for the club and I think the owners understand that."
Benítez's conciliatory tone was in marked contrast to his stinging criticism of the Americans following Liverpool's win at Newcastle last Saturday, and his insistence that he wants to remain involved in transfer policy, a requirement now handed over to the chief executive, Rick Parry, may yet prove a problem when the manager meets his employers on December 16.
Foster Gillett, George's son and appointed representative on the Liverpool board, was at Anfield last night to witness a fervent show of support for Benítez and his report home will certainly ease tensions with the co-chairmen. "This is not about me being in a stronger position at the club," added Benítez. "I think I am in the same position as before and we need to talk about the future and our ideas."
The possibility of qualifying for the knockout phase of the Champions League with victory over Marseille in France on December 11 will aid Benítez's reconciliation process as much as his post-match words. And the Liverpool manager was also keen to show his appreciation for those supporters who marched in his support before kick-off.
Benítez said: "I think this was the most emotional night I have had here because it is important to get through in the Champions League and because of what has happened in the last few days.
"It was not the most difficult time I have ever experienced, but it was strange. I was just trying to do my job properly and, at the end of the game, I enjoyed it a little bit. I want to say thank you to the supporters."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Newcastle 0-3 Liverpool

Liverpool put the friction between manager Rafael Benitez and the club's board behind them to beat Newcastle.
Gerrard, booed by Magpies fans for his part in England's Euro 2008 qualifying failure, answered the jeers by powering in a 30-yard shot for the Reds.
Fernando Torres hit the post after Newcastle keeper Shay Given escaped a red card for blocking his initial shot with his arm outside the area.
Dirk Kuyt bundled in a Reds second before Ryan Babel slid in the third.
The home fans turned on Magpies boss Sam Allardyce in the second half but had earlier vented their frustrations at England's Euro 2008 heartbreak by booing Gerrard with his every touch.
But the midfielder looked a different player on Liverpool duty and was helped by a lacklustre and injury-ravaged Newcastle side gifting the visitors the majority of possession.
Liverpool took their time in trying to prise a way through the Magpies defence and a swerving Gerrard strike forced Given into desperately punching the ball to safety.
The pressure built as Newcastle continued to be strangers to the ball, and Gerrard responded to the catcalls in emphatic fashion by breaking the deadlock.
He gave Given little chance of reaching his fiercely struck shot after Lucas Leiva, making his first Premier League start, rolled a free-kick to him.
Newcastle's solitary chance of the first half came when Alan Smith controlled a ball on his thigh and volleyed just wide of the far post with an effort across goal.
The Reds should have been two-up on the stroke of half-time and keeper Given dismissed for Newcastle.
He came storming out of his goal as Liverpool counter-attacked and, as Torres tried to curl a shot around him with the outside of his foot, blocked with his arm.
Torres should have side-footed into an empty net from 25 yards when the ball again broke to him but he hit the post, while referee Alan Wiley took no action against Given.
But the visitors wasted no time after the break to add a second with Sami Hyypia flicking a low corner with his right foot on to Kuyt, who guided in with his shin from point-blank range.
Torres twice went wide as he struggled to make the most of regular opportunities coming his way as the home fans vented their frustrations on Allardyce.
They showed their discontent when Joey Barton came on instead of James Milner.
The fans then cheered when Milner finally came on but the jeers were back with the attack-minded Charles N'Zogbia being taken off to make way.
Liverpool showed little sympathy as Babel played a neat one-two with Gerrard and sidefooted in a shot.
The scoreline could have been worse for Newcastle but for Given as the supporters also made their anger with their team and manager clear at the end.
· Newcastle assistant boss Nigel Pearson: "It was a poor performance from us but I thought they were exceptional and we have to put matters right.
"We have to work hard and stay with each other and it will happen, there is no place to hide and we don't plan to.
"We must put these kind of performances behind us because they are not up to the standard we expect from ourselves."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez: "The performance was almost perfect.
"The team played really well and with a lot confidence and they passed the ball around well and kept a clean sheet.
"Our team has kept the momentum and there are a lot of players performing and it's the kind of display that you want to see."
Newcastle: Given, Geremi, Beye, Rozehnal, Jose Enrique (Carr 78), Smith, Butt, Emre (Barton 51), N'Zogbia (Milner 59), Viduka, Martins.Subs Not Used: Harper, Edgar.
Booked: Butt, Beye, Smith.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Gerrard (Crouch 80), Lucas, Sissoko, Kewell (Babel 58), Torres, Kuyt (Riise 76).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Mascherano.
Booked: Sissoko.
Goals: Gerrard 28, Kuyt 46, Babel 66.
Att: 52,307 Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Rafa Bayern talk rubbished


Bayern Munich and Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez have moved quickly to scotch claims he could take over at the German side next summer.
Reports over the weekend suggested that current Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld's relationship with chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has become strained of late and he could be on his way out of the Allianz Arena come the end of the season. However, while Rummenigge has admitted directing some critcism towards the club's 58-year-old coach, he is confident of keeping him in Bavaria and even suggested a contract extension will be offered.On Hitzfeld, who rejoined Bayern after Felix Magath's sacking in February for his second spell in charge of the club, Rummenigge said: "Our relationship of confidence remains intact. You can criticise someone you consider a friend when you believe that things don't go in the right direction."He added: "We agreed we will discuss an extension of his contract in January."Benitez also reacted to the rumours by insisting he is not interested in quitting Liverpool as he wants to continue his plan to turn the Merseysiders into consistent Premiership title and Champions League contenders.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham

Fernando Torres' superb individual goal and a Steven Gerrard penalty pushed Liverpool up to fourth as Fulham again imploded in the last 10 minutes.
Torres twisted and turned to get the better of Aaron Hughes, before beating goalkeeper Antti Niemi with a low shot.
Peter Crouch, who hit the bar with a first-half header, won the penalty when he was fouled by Carlos Bocanegra and Gerrard's spot-kick was unstoppable.
Niemi was superb for Fulham in goal, making a series of top-class saves.
During midweek Liverpool had thrashed Besiktas 8-0 in the Champions League, but Fulham proved less accommodating as Rafa Benitez named an unchanged side for the first time in over a year.
Prior to Saturday's game, Liverpool had drawn four home games and for 80 minutes Fulham looked they might be another side to come away from Anfield with a point.
But not for the first time this season Fulham, who now have conceded goals in the last 10 times seven times this season, failed to last the course.
Deploying David Healy and Shefki Kuqi in attack, Fulham tried to get their midfield players to support them as quickly as possible in the early stages of the game.
Kuqi's aerial presence caused Liverpool problems, while former Reds midfielder Danny Murphy tried his luck with a couple of long-range efforts.
Kuqi worked tirelessly for Fulham, tracking back to help out his defenders.
And Fulham's defensive organisation ensured Liverpool struggled to create clear chances in an even first half, ensuring Niemi had only one real save to make in the opening period from Sami Hyypia's shot.
Andriy Voronin briefly unsettled the Fuham defence when he emerged unmarked at the far post, but after controlling the ball on his chest he misplaced his pass.
Even so Liverpool were unlucky not to go in at the interval ahead when Crouch's looping header bounced off the bar.
Just after the restart Crouch headed the ball down to Voronin, but the Ukrainian forward's shot was comfortably gathered by Niemi.
On 55 minutes the Fulham keeper had an altogehter less comfortable moment when he was momentarily deceived by Fabio Aurelio's free-kick, before recovering to make the save.
Soon afterwards Niemi had to push the ball over the bar from Voronin's rising shot, though Voronin was to completely miss his kick when Liverpool's next chance arrived.
Niemi's best save of the game came from Yossi's Benayoun's chip which looked goalbound before the Finn got one hand to the ball and pushed it past the post.
Benayoun had an influential game for Liverpool and a clever pass released Voronin, but the Ukrainian's shot flashed past the post.
On came Ryan Babel and Torres and the Spanish striker's arrival proved decisive.
Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina played a part in Torres' goal, his huge kick finding his Spanish compatriot deep in the Fulham half.
Torres' tricky bamboozled Hughes and having created space the former Atletico Madrid beat Niemi with a low shot inside the near post.
Crouch was then tripped by Bocanegra and Gerrard's powerful penalty gave Niemi no chance.
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"Their keeper was really good but we were creating chances and at the end we could score a second goal because they were a little bit open.
"We knew Fulham would work hard till the end but we needed to keep going, passing the ball and trying to do our job.
"It's always important to win, but especially when you know that for 10-15 days you won't have another game, so our people will be happy for at least 10-15 days!"
· Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez:"I thought we pretty much contained them in the second half but the problem was we thought we had coped so well we could go on and nick it.
"We're not a bad side but we're not quite at the level where can live with a team like Liverpool for 90 minutes.
"But overall I'm pleased with the performance. When you come to a place like this you know they can go away from teams but we stayed with them until the end."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun, Mascherano (Lucas 81), Gerrard, Riise (Babel 62), Voronin (Torres 70), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Martin, Finnan.
Goals: Torres 81, Gerrard 85 pen.
Fulham: Niemi, Baird, Hughes, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Davies, Davis, Murphy, Dempsey (Kamara 69), Kuqi, Healy (Bouazza 60).Subs Not Used: Warner, Smertin, Leijer.
Booked: Murphy, Dempsey.
Att: 43,073
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham

Fernando Torres came on to inspire Liverpool to victory as Rafa Benitez's men scored twice in the last nine minutes to finally overcome Fulham.
The £25m Spanish striker emerged from the bench with 20 minutes remaining, with Liverpool once again struggling to turn their dominance into goals.
It took Torres just 11 minutes to strike a wonderful opener, collecting keeper Jose Reina's punt and embarking on a powerful run which saw him twist inside Aaron Hughes before beating inspired keeper Antti Niemi with a low shot.
Steven Gerrard sealed victory five minutes from time from the penalty spot after Peter Crouch had been tripped by Carlos Bocanegra - although television replays proved the offence took place marginally outside the box.
Liverpool may have demolished Besiktas by a record Champions League score in midweek, but there was still an element of disbelief around Anfield when it was announced that Benitez had named an unchanged line-up.
It was the first time in 59 games that the Spaniard had decided against tinkering with his team.
That meant Torres once again had to be content with a place on the bench, with Peter Crouch handed his second Premier League start of the season - and his first since September.
Benitez knew that a victory was vital if his team were to regain momentum in the title race after two successive draws.
Despite being unbeaten in the league, the Merseysiders began the evening six points adrift of leaders Arsenal due to the fact that four of their previous five home games this term had ended in stalemate.
Fulham, like their hosts, have built up a reputation as draw specialists, with half of their 12 games ending level.
Last week's win over Reading was only the Londoners' second victory of the campaign.
The game represented an Anfield return for Danny Murphy, the former England midfielder who had arrived at Fulham via Spurs after a medal-laden time with the club of his boyhood dreams.
Murphy was on target with the first shot of the game after just 11 seconds - his drive from 20 yards bringing a comfortable save from Pepe Reina.
Liverpool's response was a drive from Sami Hyypia, which was redirected past his lefthand post by Niemi.
Then, after the contest had become more subdued, Gerrard was angry with himself when he found time and space on the edge of the box only to fire well over.
Murphy seemed to be on a mission to prove to Benitez that selling him was a mistake and he gave Reina an even bigger test when he met Clint Dempsey's knock-down with a volley from 18 yards which the Liverpool keeper was again equal to.
Liverpool's growing frustration was cranked up another notch when Gerrard found Crouch smuggling himself around the back of Hughes, but the Irish defender reacted well to clear the danger as the Reds' striker shaped to shoot.
Then Euro hat-trick hero Yossi Benayoun directed Alvaro Arbeola's cross away from the incoming Gerrard as another chance went begging.
Liverpool continued to fail to make their increasing dominance tell - and they weren't helped when Andriy Voronin's charge on goal from Gerrard's pass was halted by a dubious offside call.
Niemi almost handed the home side a gift when Benayoun's header was deflected high into the air and the Fulham keeper spilled a routine catch before snatching the loose ball off the toes of Crouch. Then Crouch cursed his luck in first-half injury-time when he finally found a way past Niemi with a looping header from Fabio Aurelio's free-kick, but his effort came bouncing back off the crossbar.
Voronin opened the second half by forcing Niemi into a smart save, meeting Crouch's downward header with a volley that brought a smart stop from the Finn.
That was the cue for Liverpool to really crank up the pressure - and the second period was a constant succession of home attacks.
Gerrard did his best to galvanise his men and after robbing Steven Davis in the centre circle he powered forward towards goal only to be halted by Murphy's cynical tackle.
Murphy was booked and Aurelio thought he had exacted more retribution with a curling free-kick that Niemi seemed to misjudge before realigning himself to save.
Voronin was first to the rebound but, under pressure from Dejan Stefanovic and Hughes, he could only direct his shot over from point-blank range.
Niemi saved well again when Voronin linked up well with Crouch and generated a shot with great power but not enough direction to beat the keeper.
Then Voronin missed his kick completely from Gerrard's cross after Stefanovic's desperation to prevent a corner had presented the Liverpool skipper with possession.
Lawrie Sanchez took off striker Healey and replaced him with midfielder Hameur Bouazza, while Benitez decided that Riise would make way for Ryan Babel.
Within seconds Babel had teed up Benayoun to clip a glorious shot towards the top corner, but Niemi excelled again with a stunning finger-tip save.
Twenty minutes from time came the call for Torres, with Voronin the man to make way (SEE PHOTO) - and that turned out to be the decision which finally allowed Liverpool to make their superiority count.

CROUCH: TORRES WAS THE DIFFERENCE

Peter Crouch admits fellow striker Fernando Torres was the difference between the sides in Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Fulham on Saturday.
The Spanish striker was introduced after a frustrating 70 minutes for the Reds – and it didn't take him long to open the scores after latching onto a long ball from Pepe Reina. Crouch said: "We've got a lot of quality in the squad and I thought all the boys did well, but Fernando when he came on offered us something different. Credit to him, he got the goal and it all opened up. "We had to be patient because of Fulham's game-plan, they defended well and it was hard to break them down. But I felt we were always on top and they couldn't keep it up. I think it would have been a few more if the game had gone on a bit longer." The England international was instrumental in Liverpool's second on 85 minutes when he was tripped by Carlos Bocanegra. Referee Stephen Tanner pointed to the spot, though replays were not conclusive on whether the foul was inside the box. Crouch joked that he would have scored anyway. "I don't know if it was in or outside the box – it was borderline but I was ready to take a shot and no doubt that would have flown in. "It was definitely a foul. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't, and thankfully Stevie tucked it away really well."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas

Yossi Benayoun grabbed a hat-trick as a rampant Liverpool beat Besiktas to keep their Champions League campaign alive.
Peter Crouch slotted in after his first shot was saved to open the scoring.
Benayoun took down a cross and lashed home before twice side-footing in after John Arne Riise and Steven Gerrard had strikes parried into his path.
Gerrard powered in a shot, Ryan Babel backheeled in a deft goal and then deflected in a Besiktas clearance before Crouch nodded in for an eighth.
Liverpool came into the game with their backs against the wall as they needed victory to keep alive any realistic hopes of progressing in the competition.
The Reds started with the urgency their predicament merited but saw Mehmet Sedef shoot wide at the near post after a cross from Matias Delgado.
The home side heeded the warning as a sign to swarm forward in greater numbers.
Crouch nodded a ball into the path of Andriy Voronin, who shot disappointingly wide, and then got the power on a header from Riise's cross only to see his effort go wide.
Right-back Alvaro Arbeloa was consistently marauding forward and he crossed for Benayoun to guide a shot against the outside of near post.
The inevitability of the Reds goal finally came when Edouard Cisse inadvertently played Crouch through on goal with a tackle towards his own goal.
Crouch netted the rebound as he scored the goal Liverpool craved to settle nerves before Riise had a header cleared off the line.
Voronin then found Benayoun at the far post and the Israeli took two touches to control and then lash in a shot to add a second.
Liverpool continued to scythe through Besiktas after the break and Benayoun had a simple tap-in for a third after keeper Hakan Arikan could only parry a Riise shot into his path.
The fourth from the Reds came much the same way when Arikan failed to gather a fiercely driven Gerrard free-kick and Benayoun poached a another goal for his hat-trick.
The stunned Turkish visitors had little answer to Liverpool's play as the Anfield side refused to let up. And another goal soon followed as a superb backheel from Voronin put Gerrard through on goal as the two players produced a neat one-two, which the Reds skipper finished with a stinging shot.
Benayoun turned provider late on when he crossed low for Babel and he audaciously back-heeled in at the near post.
Dutch forward Babel chased down a long ball and was rewarded when a clearance struck him and looped into the net.
Babel even had time to head against the crossbar, while Crouch glanced in a header from a Benayoun cross to complete the rout and the biggest win in the Champions League.
Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio (Babel 63), Hyypia, Carragher, Arbeloa, Riise, Mascherano, Gerrard (Lucas 72), Benayoun, Voronin (Kewell 72), Crouch. Subs Not Used: Martin, Finnan, Torres, Kuyt.
Goals: Crouch 19, Benayoun 32, 53, 56, Gerrard 69, Babel 79, 81, Crouch 89.
Besiktas: Arikan, Uzulmez, Toraman, Diatta, Kurtulus (Higuain 62), Sedef (Ricardinho 78), Cisse, Avci, Ozcan (Tandogan 46), Delgado, Bobo. Subs Not Used: Rustu, Yozgatli, Kas, Karadeniz.
Booked: Ozcan.
Att: 41,143
Ref: Markus Merk (Germany).

Peter Crouch hits new heights

Peter Crouch disappeared under a pile of bodies, perhaps consumed by mixed emotions. Having put Liverpool ahead in last night's must-win Champions League tussle with Besiktas and, having capped a sensational team effort with the eighth goal, his obvious delight might not only have been tinged with a sense of relief, having played so little football over the last few months, but also with a hint of sadness.
Might Crouch be leaving all this behind in January? Might he be saying goodbye to this grand old arena and to the famous Kop that still sings his name? In short, might he be forced to leave Anfield after seemingly failing to convince his manager that he can still do a job on a regular basis? After all, nobody wants to be sitting on the bench all the time, even if it is at England's most successful club.
On this occasion, however, Rafael Benitez decided that the time was right to give his unhappy centre-forward a rare start, on a night when the team simply had to win to have a chance of remaining at Europe's top table.
Actually, I wonder how that felt - getting the nod for such a crucial match while knowing, deep down, that your manager isn't too fussed; that three other strikers now stand ahead in the pecking order, when last season you could do little wrong.
Benitez, however, has always known that Crouch could create a different set of problems to the other cards in his pack, especially on a night when a more direct style seemed the best way, initially, to disturb the composure of vulnerable Turkish visitors.
As a result, Benitez dispensed with the services of Dirk Kuyt, who had been enduring a tough time in front of goal anyway. And with Fernando Torres not quite ready to play from the start after returning from injury, the Spanish coach turned to his 6ft 7in centre-forward to help the team out of this sticky situation.
And help out Crouch did with that precious opening goal, a testament to the big man's persistence, determination and cool head at the end. Latching on to a half-hearted interception by Edouard Cisse, Crouch's first effort cannoned off the goalkeeper but he gamely kept going to slot home the rebound.
Cue the celebration, a joyous run and dive down by the corner flag. Crouch's team-mates looked genuinely pleased to see the change of fortune. That first cut, what's more, would prove the deepest, for Besiktas never recovered from that moment on. Just over an hour later, Crouch jumped unchallenged to set the scoring record.
In fairness, Crouch could have kicked off the deluge earlier than he did. Meeting John Arne Riise's whipped cross inside the first 10 minutes, his downward header thumped into the advertising hoardings instead of bulging the net. Then, for some reason, he tried to get his head to Andrei Voronin's low cutback instead of sticking out one of his long legs. Such misjudgments on another night might have proved costly. Not this time. Crouch had happened on a match when everything went right.
You might say that the 26-year-old stood in the shop window, if it is indeed true that Benitez wants rid. They say, after all, that the pair have fallen out, that the manager doesn't approve of the player's so-called celebrity lifestyle. Model girlfriend, autobiography, personal appearances - perhaps Benitez thinks his man has taken his eye off the ball.
If so, quite a few Premier League clubs will be waiting with Aston Villa thought to beheading the queue. Martin O'Neill is known to like that type of player and, come January, the Irishman could confirm his admiration with an attractive offer.
For now, however, Crouch could still play a big part in Liverpool's efforts to qualify from Group A. ''He's big, he's red, his feet stick out the bed." The Kop's tribute to their hero can still be heard. For how much longer, only Benitez can say.

TURK THAT

YOSSI BENAYOUN put Liverpool’s Champions League campaign back on track last night.
The Israel ace grabbed a hat-trick as Rafa Benitez’s side romped to a vital and emphatic 8-0 win.
Peter Crouch set them on their way, and strengthened his case for a run in the team, with a typically determined goal in the 19th minute.
Benayoun took centre stage with three goals in 24 minutes either side of half-time.
The first was a slick volleyed finish, and although the other two were simpler they were no less important.
They settled any nerves the home side might have had, but fans wondered just how Liverpool had lost to Besiktas in Istanbul two weeks ago.
That feeling was reinforced as Steven Gerrard, sub Ryan Babel (2) and then Crouch again completed the scoring.

Benitez issues warning to Porto

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez believes his side's 8-0 home thrashing of Besiktas will put fear into their next Champions League opponents Porto.
The Reds now need to beat Porto at Anfield and win in Marseille in their final two group games to secure their progress to the knockout stages.
"The next one is against Porto and at least we will have confidence and the supporters will believe," said Benitez.
"Porto need to come here to Anfield and they will be worried for sure."
He added: "The rest of Europe will also be aware of what we have done.
"But in the end we still have to win those last two games, regardless of how many goals we scored this time."
Yossi Benayoun notched a hat-trick, Peter Crouch and Ryan Babel each scored twice, while Steven Gerrard also grabbed a goal as Liverpool's victory saw them bag a record Champions League win.
"We have been creating a lot of chances in previous games, but not scoring them," said Benitez.
"Today we scored early and the game opened up. Besiktas also had to win to keep their chances of qualifying going so they had to come out and try to attack and that gave our forwards space to use.
"It made our movement easier, the space was there and our strikers were on very good form.
"But we still must win the next two and then wait to see if it is enough."
The win was also Liverpool's biggest in Europe for 27 years and leaves them on four points, with Group A leaders Porto on eight points and Marseille in second on seven points.
"When you create chances, score hat-tricks and play that well, it gives all the front players - Yossi, Ryan and Peter, plenty of confidence that they can attack and be successful," said Benitez.
"If you score then you have confidence, that is the difference from the way we have played recently.
"But this was an all-round performance by the whole team. (Andriy) Voronin did not score but he was hugely influential in what went on, his play was unselfish and effective.
"He did a tremendous job, and the defence kept a clean sheet so there was very little for me to complain about, just a few minor things."
Besiktas coach Ertugrul Saglam, who did not answer questions at the post-match news conference, was shell-shocked and apologised to the club's fans.
"It was a very bad night for our team, and fans," he said. "The result was very upsetting for us and I would like to say sorry to all our fans.
"It is very difficult to accept this result, but life does go on and we have to work much harder now to improve in the future. I can promise our fans we will do that."

RAMPANT REDS THRASH BESIKTAS

Yossi Benayoun struck a superb hat-trick to ensure Liverpool's Champions League dream remains intact as they hit eight without reply to overwhelm Besiktas at Anfield.
The Israeli completed his treble at the Kop end as other goals from Peter Crouch (2), Steven Gerrard and substitute Ryan Babel (2) gave everyone hope that Rafael Benitez's men can still reach the knockout stages. On a night of milestones, in which Sami Hyypia made his 100th appearance in European competition and Rafa Benitez celebrated his 50th Champions League match in charge of Liverpool, the Reds started strongly and could have taken the lead on four minutes but Andriy Voronin steered his shot wide after a great knock down by Crouch. The visitors looked shaky in defence and three minutes later Crouch somehow powered a header wide after John Arne Riise's cross found him unmarked six yards out before Alvaro Arbeloa's heavy touch prevented him from getting a shot on goal after wonderful link up play with Benayoun. The Israeli was enjoying himself and on 13 minutes he was unlucky to see his first-time shot cannon back off the near post after Javier Mascherano had played in Alvaro Arbeloa down the right. It was only a matter of time until Liverpool got the breakthrough and it was fitting that the impressive Peter Crouch was the man to get the all-important first goal. Voronin's attempted through ball was diverted into the towering forward's path on 19 minutes and after his first effort was saved by Hakan Arikan in the Besiktas goal, he reacted instantly to fire home the loose ball. The Reds were in complete control and three minutes later Fabio Aurelio's corner was met by a powerful header by John Arne Riise but the Norwegian's goalbound effort was brilliantly headed off the line. Crouch then fired a sizzling effort just wide from a tight angle before Benayoun netted his third goal in a Red shirt on 32 minutes. Andriy Voronin broke down the left and when his searching cross found the Israeli unmarked in the box, he composed himself before drilling the ball past the keeper. It was a comfortable lead for Liverpool to take into the interval and it got better within minutes of the restart. Voronin cut in from the left and played a reverse ball to Riise and when his stinging shot was parried into Benayoun's path the midfielder tapped home the simplest of goals. And it was déjà vu on 56 minutes when the diminutive playmaker completed his hat-trick at the Kop end, gleefully snapping up the rebound after Steven Gerrard's powerful free-kick was pushed into his path by the bemused Arikan. The hosts were playing some wonderful football by this point and on 69 minutes Gerrard got in on the act when he latched onto Voronin's return ball to power in on goal and smash in the fifth of the night. It means the skipper is just one away from equalling Michael Owen's European record of 22 goals and he owes a huge debt of gratitude to Voronin, who clocked up his fourth assist of the evening with an inspired Cruyff flick. The Reds then capped an incredible night with the sixth on 78 minutes when substitute Ryan Babel finished off Benayoun's cross with an audacious flick at the near post. It was all going Liverpool's way and on 81 minutes Ryan Babel charged down an attempted clearance and watched on in delight as it looped over Arikan and into the net. Babel could have had his hat-trick on 84 minutes but his close range header smashed back off the bar before Crouch finished what he had started way back in the first-half, when he headed home Benayoun's cross two minutes from the end.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Gerrard Issues War Cry


Faced with the prospect of an early exit from the Champions League as Liverpool take on Besiktas at Anfield tonight, Steven Gerrard has issued a rallying call, urging his teammates to go for the jugular.
Liverpool are four points off second place as they head into tonight's clash, and must win in order to have any realistic hope of progressing to the knock-out stages.
Defeats to Marseille and Besiktas along with a draw against Porto mean that the Reds need a series of magical European nights, and skipper Steven Gerrard has urged his team to go on a rampage.
"We know we need a night like [against] Juventus, like Chelsea and like Olympiakos.
"That was probably the last time we found ourselves in a similar position.
"Our backs were against the wall and unfortunately that’s where we are again — but we know we can do it.
"We have to give the fans something to get excited about and that’s the aim when the referee blows his whistle."
"Tonight is hugely important and we have to make a fast start to rock Besiktas early," he continued. "I said two weeks ago we face three cup finals and I haven’t changed my position.
"I don’t think we have anything to fear from Besiktas. And it would be nice if we could send out a message to the rest of the teams in our group with a really strong result.
"When we get it right there are very few teams, if any, that can live with us and we have to get it right tonight.”
"We’ve left ourselves absolutely no margin for error. We didn't make the most of our chances in Turkey and we won't make the same mistake at Anfield.
"We know one more slip will end our interest in the tournament and so we want to go for the jugular from the first whistle."

Reds duo confident of vital victory

Rafael Benitez and Jamie Carragher have joined forces to demand a big performance from Liverpool's players and fans when they host Besiktas.

The Reds have to beat the Turkish outfit at Anfield in a make-or-break Champions League Group A match to have any realistic chance of reaching the last 16.
Manager Benitez could have striker Fernando Torres back - with a training session on Tuesday set to seal the Spaniard's fate.
But Benitez said: "I am confident we can win this one.
"That is because I see my players in every training session and I know what they can do, especially at Anfield in front of our own people.
"The players know we need character and quality. We did not expect to lose to Besiktas in Turkey, now we must win this one, and we will be trying hard to do that and we believe we can.
"We know our fans will help us - we must give them a big performance and I know they always give us a big performance too."
Carragher knows Liverpool must not only win tonight, but that victories against Porto and Marseille in the final group matches are also imperative.
He said: "We aim to win all three, but let's concentrate on beating Besiktas first before we start thinking about what we do in the last game in Marseille.
"We must win this one, then move on to beat Porto. That's two home games and our crowd will play a big part, then we will think about what we must do in Marseille.
"We are not worrying too much about what happens if we do not qualify, and I don't even see that as a disaster. It's just football, but if we don't get through we could qualify for the UEFA Cup and we would be confident going into that.
"Obviously we want to be in the Champions League, we want to play against the best and show we can compete against them. But we have done that anyway in the last couple of years or so with two final appearances.
"If it happens we have to get on with it. It would be a disappointment, not a disaster, and it would still be a massive season ahead for us with genuine targets."
Carragher echoed his boss's call for the fans to play their part in what could be another stirring night on Merseyside.
He added: "The atmosphere at Anfield is one of the main reasons we have done so well in the Champions League.
"The manager and the players have played their part but so have our fans, and we need them now.
"They got us to finals in Istanbul and Athens. Now we need them because we all accept we have not done as well as we should have in the first three games in the group.
"The Kop can have a massive part to play now in keeping us in the tournament."

Benitez relaxed over Reds future

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez says his job is safe despite the Reds battling to stay in the Champions League and a slow start to their domestic season.
Liverpool are bottom of their Champions League group, having picked up just one point in three games, and seventh in the Premier League.
Benitez insisted Liverpool's owners are remaining "very, very positive".
"I felt they are really focused and supporting so I think the future is great," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
If the Reds lose at home to Besiktas on Tuesday, the 2005 European champions will almost certainly be out of the competition.
Defeat would also leave them in danger of missing out on the Uefa Cup spot available to sides who finish third in their Champions League groups.
Despite the cloud hanging over Liverpool's current form, Benitez pointed to the club's European exploits in recent years.
"Tell me how teams can be in two finals in the Champions League in three years?" he said, insisting co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks share his vision for the club's future.
"They must be pleased with the way the team and the club is going because we are changing a lot of things and I think we are progressing."
And Benitez dismissed suggestions that an early exit from the Champions League this year would cost the club between £17m and £20m.
"That is the money only the finalists get and only two clubs can do that," he said.
"The financial implications in losing are not as big as people suggest.
"But we must think about football first and not to be bothered by other things - that will be taken care of later.
"I have talked to the owners, but not about money, just our ideas for the future."
Defender Jamie Carragher has revealed he feels "it is not a disaster" if Liverpool do not reach the next stage of the competition.
"We can't win all the time," he said. "We have a good record in the Champions League and will look to keep that going.
"We do still want to be in the Champions League. But if it doesn't happen we just have to get on with it."

Gerrard Issues War Cry
Faced with the prospect of an early exit from the Champions League as Liverpool take on Besiktas at Anfield tonight, Steven Gerrard has issued a rallying call, urging his teammates to go for the jugular.
Liverpool are four points off second place as they head into tonight's clash, and must win in order to have any realistic hope of progressing to the knock-out stages.
Defeats to Marseille and Besiktas along with a draw against Porto mean that the Reds need a series of magical European nights, and skipper Steven Gerrard has urged his team to go on a rampage.
"We know we need a night like [against] Juventus, like Chelsea and like Olympiakos.
"That was probably the last time we found ourselves in a similar position.
"Our backs were against the wall and unfortunately that’s where we are again — but we know we can do it.
"We have to give the fans something to get excited about and that’s the aim when the referee blows his whistle."
"Tonight is hugely important and we have to make a fast start to rock Besiktas early," he continued. "I said two weeks ago we face three cup finals and I haven’t changed my position.
"I don’t think we have anything to fear from Besiktas. And it would be nice if we could send out a message to the rest of the teams in our group with a really strong result.
"When we get it right there are very few teams, if any, that can live with us and we have to get it right tonight.”
"We’ve left ourselves absolutely no margin for error. We didn't make the most of our chances in Turkey and we won't make the same mistake at Anfield.
"We know one more slip will end our interest in the tournament and so we want to go for the jugular from the first whistle."

Blackburn 0-0 Liverpool

Blackburn and Liverpool shared the points in a tightly-contested match.
Rovers should have been in front by the interval after twice hitting the woodwork through David Bentley's effort and David Dunn's wonderful shot.
The game was more even in the second half, and both Christopher Samba and Dirk Kuyt could have done better for the visitors in promising positions.
Late on Brad Friedel twice saved Steven Gerrard shots, Peter Crouch went close with a header and Kuyt missed badly.
Liverpool deployed Kuyt as a lone striker, though Gerrard tried to get forward in support as often as possible.
But with Ryan Nelsen and Samba getting the better of the Dutchman, who has failed to score a league goal in open play this season, Liverpool struggled once the ball reached the Blackburn area.
Liverpool's wide players, Yossi Benayoun and Ryan Babel, also found the going tough - as did Blackburn's wingers Morten Gamst Pedersen and Bentley.
And with the play congested in midfield, both sides laboured to create scoring opportunities.
Finally after 34 minutes Blackburn did just that - and came desperately close to scoring - as Pedersen and Bentley came infield to link up well.
Bentley collected Pedersen's flicked header and his low shot grazed the foot of Jose Reina's post.
Four minutes later the game was treated to its first meaningful save when Friedel threw himself to his left to push away Babel's powerful shot.
Just before half-time Dunn was desperately unlucky not to score when his superbly executed shot crashed off the bar.
Dunn limped off at the end of first period and although he re-emerged for the second half he was soon to be replaced by Tugay.
The game was more open up after the interval and Samba might have done better when John Arne Riise failed to clear, but the Blackburn defender delayed his shot.
Just past the hour Kuyt failed to pick the right pass with Gerrard in wonderfully promising position.
Gerrard then drew two fine saves from Friedel, while substitute Crouch had a header cleared off the line by Bentley.
In the closing minutes Kuyt missed a glorious chance after good work by Harry Kewell and the Dutchman then went close with an angled shot.
Blackburn manager Mark Hughes:"It was a very good game. There were a number of chances for both teams. There were clear cut chances that on another day would have gone in.
"It was an evenly-matched game. But the last ten minutes were difficult for us.
"Liverpool had a number of chances and our keeper Brad Friedel did well for us when we were tired."
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"I am disappointed. We deserved to win. We created very, very clear chances - and plenty of them.
"When the game became more open we had more control and went forward. We had more offensive players.
"We must think about the positives, we had a lot of possession and a lot of chances. In the second half, their goalkeeper was their best player."
Blackburn: Friedel, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Bentley, Dunn (Kerimoglu 56), Pedersen, Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Derbyshire 89).Subs Not Used: Brown, Khizanishvili, Treacy.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun (Crouch 72), Sissoko, Mascherano, Babel (Kewell 63), Gerrard, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Martin, Arbeloa, Lucas.
Booked: Carragher.
Att: 30,033
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Liverpool 2-1 Cardiff


Steven Gerrard spoiled former team-mate Robbie Fowler's Anfield homecoming with Liverpool's winner to end Cardiff City's Carling Cup hopes.
Nabil El Zhar gave Liverpool the lead in this fourth-round tie with a long-range thunderbolt on 48 minutes.
Cardiff captain Darren Purse equalised, heading home Paul Parry's free-kick.
But within 46 seconds Liverpool retook the lead as Yossi Benayoun raced clear on the left and laid the ball into Gerrard's path to strike home.
Fowler, still a favourite with the Liverpool fans, returned to Anfield in the blue of Cardiff after leaving for the second time last summer.
The 32-year-old's name echoed around the stadium before the start, and four minutes into the match Fowler had a great chance to score.
Fabio Aurelio tripped the striker just outside the box in front of the Kop and Fowler, with a two pace angled run-up, sent a curling free-kick towards the top corner.
But French goalkeeper Charles Itandje flung himself to his left to claw the ball away to deny Fowler a dream return.
Liverpool responded with a Ryan Babel effort - clipped over the bar as he fell - before a clever, nimble turn from Peter Crouch ended with a low drive which fizzed wide.
Aurelio was next to try his luck with a bending drive that Bluebirds goalkeeper Michael Oakes comfortably turned round a post.
Lucas Leiva and Sebastian Leto also both went close for the home side, while at the other end Itandje turned away a dangerous Parry header, but the match remained goalless at the break.
Three minutes after the restart El Zhar remedied that, with a wonderful 30-yard strike to record his first Liverpool goal.
Gerrard made the early inroads with a typical driving run, before picking out El Zhar in space.
The 21-year-old Moroccan international, bought from St Etienne, came inside onto his right foot and unleashed a pile-driver that fizzed past Oakes and went in off the inside of the post.
Joe Ledley, who had been bright all night, almost pulled Cardiff level but the Wales international saw his goal-bound shot picked off by Itandje.
On 65 minutes Parry then sent across a fine bending free-kick that Cardiff skipper Purse honoured with an equally good header to level the score.
But Liverpool restored their lead within a minute as Gerrard swapped passes with Benayoun before burying the ball in the net from 15 yards.
Crouch nearly gave the Reds the comfort of a cushion but Oakes was again alert to palm the towering striker's header away.
Fowler nearly wrote himself a story-book ending with a vintage turn and snap-shot, only for the ball to ricochet off a Liverpool defender.
Then in the last minute Parry found space for a goal-bound effort, but again desperate defending saw the shot blocked and with it went Cardiff's last chance of forcing extra time.
Liverpool could even have finished with a flourish as Harry Kewell broke away on a swift counter-attack in injury time, only for Benayoun to blaze wide.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"I would have wanted really to leave Steven out of the match.
"But we have too many injuries and Mohamed Sissoko was sick again, so Steven had to play and in the end he was the one who scored the vital goal.
"Cardiff worked very hard and were always dangerous, but then Steven got through to score a typical goal."
· Cardiff manager Dave Jones:"We've come to Anfield and given them a bit of a fright.
"You're at your most vulnerable when you're in possession and unfortunately we lost the ball on the halfway line.
"But of all the players for the ball to break to, who can do that damage, it had to fall to the player I consider the best in that position - Gerrard."
Liverpool: Itandje, Arbeloa, Hobbs, Carragher, Aurelio, El Zhar (Kewell 71), Lucas (Mascherano 87), Gerrard, Leto (Benayoun 63), Crouch, Babel.Subs Not Used: Martin, Riise.
Booked: Lucas, Babel.
Goals: El Zhar 48, Gerrard 66.

Cardiff: Oakes, McNaughton (Gunter 84), Purse, Johnson, Capaldi, Ledley, Rae, McPhail (Whittingham 89), Parry, Fowler, Hasselbaink (Thompson 75).Subs Not Used: Magennis, Loovens.
Booked: McNaughton.
Goals: Purse 65.
Att: 41,780
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).