Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Benitez on course for clash over Gerrard

Steve McClaren was last night warned to expect an anxious wait over the fitness of Steven Gerrard in advance of England’s crucial Euro 2008 qualifying matches against Israel and Russia, but, contrary to the cautious words of Rafael BenÍtez, the Liverpool captain firmly expects to be fit to play for his country.
BenÍtez, the Liverpool manager, revealed yesterday that Gerrard will play no part in the second leg of his team’s Champions League tie against Toulouse at Anfield tonight because of the fractured toe that he suffered in the first leg in France 13 days ago. BenÍtez also raised doubts about whether his captain would be fit to play at home to Derby County on Saturday or for England against Israel seven days later, but Gerrard, it emerged last night, expects to resume full training by Thursday and to prove his fitness against Derby before joining up with the national team next Monday.
Nevertheless, BenÍtez’s words yesterday will at least give McClaren some concern as he prepares to announce his squad on Friday for the two matches. The England head coach is already without Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney and, while he has reason to expect Gerrard to be fit, there were no guarantees yesterday from BenÍtez, whose decision to field the 27-year-old against Chelsea only four days after the fracture, with the aid of a pain-killing injection, caused concern at the Football Association.
“We need to check on Gerrard during the week,” BenÍtez said when asked about the player’s prospects of playing for England next week. “We are optimistic, but we need to check with the doctor whether it is a risk or not. At the end of the day, it is a broken bone. At the moment he can do some training and he can run, but he can’t play with the ball yet.
“I would hope Steven will be a possibility to play against Derby but I am not sure, it is up to the doctors. Then we will have to see about England. It is too soon to say. It will depend on what England’s medical people feel and our own medical staff. It is not just a decision for the player. If you ask him, he wants to play in every game. The more important decision is for the doctor. If the doctor says he is fit, I don’t have any problem.”

Injury crisis at Anfield

LIVERPOOL: Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez admits he could be forced to make an emergency signing after being hit with a defensive crisis ahead of his side’s crunch Champions League qualifier with Toulouse.
Jamie Carragher is out of today’s third qualifying round return leg at Anfield after suffering a broken rib and collapsed lung at Sunderland on Saturday.
The former England defender, who was seen remonstrating with Benitez at the Stadium of Light in order to get himself subbed because of the problems he faced, faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
In addition, Benitez is also sweating on Finland international Sami Hyypia who suffered a broken nose in the 2-0 win on Wearside.
Benitez, who has allowed young Argentine defender Gabriel Paletta to join Boca Juniors, is now short of defensive options and revealed he is now scouring the market ahead of the transfer deadline later this week. He has already spent nearly £40mil since the end of last season.
“It looked like Sami lost his vision in his left eye while his nose could also be broken,” said Benitez.
“We are thinking about finding more players and maybe we will have to look at this situation again.”
Daniel Agger will start against Toulouse as Liverpool, last season’s runners-up, protect a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt are expected to spearhead the attack with club record signing Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin rested.
Voronin scored against Toulouse in the first leg while Torres missed several clear cut chances to score at the weekend.
England striker Crouch was left out of the 16 to face Sunderland while Kuyt came on in the dying stages at the Stadium of Light.
“It’s not important which of the four strikers play, but if we are to win games we have to change the strikers around,” added Benitez.
“With three games every week we have to change things and we will do that. Everybody knows that Voronin is a good player with good movement. Along with Torres he worked hard up front against Sunderland.”
Toulouse, who drew 1-1 with Nice in a French League clash at the weekend, keep the same 18 players on duty for that trip.
They could also welcome back defender Herita Ilunga who was suspended for the first leg.
“We are going to Anfield to qualify,” said skipper Nicolas Dieuze

Gerrard ruled out for Reds

Steven Gerrard has been ruled out of Liverpool's UEFA Champions League qualifier against Toulouse.
The midfield dynamo is still recovering from the toe injury which forced him out of England's defeat to Germany last week and Liverpool's win at Sunderland on Saturday.
Gerrard joins Jamie Carragher on the sidelines for the qualifying round second leg tie at home to Toulouse after Carragher broke his rib against Sunderland.
Reds boss Rafa Benitez confirmed his key duo would not be involved against Toulouse at Anfield, with Liverpool holding a 1-0 lead from the first match.
"Both players will not be available for this game," said Benitez.
"It's a shame because they are both important players for us, but we have enough players and enough competition within the squad to cope.
"Carra is improving which is good news. I need to talk to the doctor to find out more and to see how long he will be out for.
"It's clear that with Steven we need to take care of him. He could be available for the game at the weekend but we'll have to see. Again I will need to talk to the doctor first because I don't want to run the risk of losing him for a long time.
"This week we will keep him training and keep him fit and then see about the Derby game on Saturday."
Sami Hyypia has been declared fit to play against Toulouse, despite breaking his nose against Sunderland.


Goals from Momo Sissoko - his first for the club - and Andriy Voronin gave Liverpool an excellent 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
The Reds found Sunderland's record signing, Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon, in superb form and for a time none of their forwards could find a way past him. They eventually took the lead in the 37th minute of a first half that had looked certain to end goalless before Sissoko beat Gordon with a superb right foot shot. Voronin confirmed a second away win of the season after excellent play involving Babel, Pennant and Torres in the 87th minute. Sunderland came into this game having had their good start to life back in the Premier League halted by defeat at Wigan, while Liverpool were hoping to add three points to the four they already had before embarking on the job of ensuring qualification for the group stages of the Champions League against Toulouse on Tuesday. A hairline fracture of the toe meant the Reds had to do without their captain at the Stadium of Light. Gerrard didn't travel to the North East and his place was taken by Momo Sissoko, who partnered Xabi Alonso in the centre of the midfield. There were also first starts in the Premier League for Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin. Liverpool kicked the game off and started well. We'd had just 30 seconds when a loose pass gave Voronin a chance to score. The Ukrainian did well to muscle his way through the Sunderland defence, but he couldn't beat their goalkeeper Gordon, who made a fine save before the ball was scrambled away. Buoyed by that, Liverpool continued on the front foot in the early stages and two corners in quick succession increased the pressure on Roy Keane's side. Sunderland did manage to break in the 8th minute and Richardson's near post cross bounced dangerously off McShane and just wide. The Reds were back on the attack in the 11th minute when Xabi Alonso had a shot blocked, but they almost went behind in the 24th minute when Stokes, who had just come on for Richardson, broke free. It took a fine save from Reina to deny the Sunderland man. The game appeared to be drifting towards a goalless half time with neither side ready to seize the initiative. Sissoko's goal was just what the doctor ordered. Liverpool almost made it 2-0 on the stroke of half time when Gordon made what was to be the first of a series of saves from Fernando Torres before stopping the ball on his goalline. The second half started as the first had done, with Liverpool on the attack. It took another good Gordon save from the ever dangerous Torres in the 51st minute and the Sunderland stopper was busy again just minutes later when Pennant's shot needed saving. Roy Keane tried to change things when he replaced Dwight Yorke with Grant Leadbitter, but still the chances continued to come for Liverpool with Torres again getting in behind the home defence only to shoot tamely wide. Concern was growing that the Reds would be made to pay for not killing the game off and when Gordon made another brilliant save from Voronin in the 76th minute you feared a sucker punch. But the Ukraine international beat the Scot in the 87th minute to make it 2-0 and two away wins out of two for the Rafa's men.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Finnan, Babel, Alonso, Sissoko, Pennant, Voronin, Torres. Subs - Riise, Mascherano, Kuyt, Agger, Itandje

Sunderland: Gordon, Wallace, Nosworthy, McShane, Halford, Richardson, Yorke (captain), Etuhu, Miller, Murphy, Chopra. Subs - Leadbitter, Ward, Anderson, Stokes, Connolly Referee: M Halsey

Conditions: Dry

Attendance: 45,645

Liverpoolfc.tv Man-of-the-Match: Momo Sissoko

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rob Styles cracked under pressure says Steven Gerrard

STEVEN GERRARD accused referee Rob Styles of cracking under pressure from Chelsea players when he awarded a highly controversial penalty at Anfield.

Fernando Torres netted with a fine side-footed effort after just 16 minutes, and Liverpool looked to be on course to repeat last season’s league victory over the then-champions at Anfield.

But in the second period Frank Lampard netted the penalty, wrongly awarded for a challenge by Steve Finnan on Florent Malouda.

Asked if his side deserved to win, Gerrard said: “I think so. A very unfair decision has got Chelsea a point. But I think we proved we are capable of challenging.

“I felt the referee didn’t play well today. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and I thought he eventually cracked.”

Asked about his slim chances of overcoming a broken toe to play in England’s friendly against Germany on Wednesday, Gerrard said: “I looked fit today because I had a painkilling injection to play. I need to rest to be ready for the England qualifiers.

“I’ve spoken to Steve McClaren a couple of times and I’ll speak to him tomorrow I suppose.

“The sensible thing is to make sure you are ready for big games.

“If the x-ray tomorrow shows the crack has healed, I’ll be playing for England. But I can’t see it because three days ago I had an x-ray and I’d broken a toe.”

Referee just not Benitez's style

LIVERPOOL, England, Aug 20, 2007 (AFP) - Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez could not conceal his fury at referee Rob Styles and his bitter rivals Chelsea after a controversial second half penalty decision earned the visitors a 1-1 draw in a keenly-fought Premiership encounter at Anfield on Sunday.

A goal for 26.5 million pound buy Fernando Torres on his home debut had put Liverpool in control of an excellent game only for Styles to judge that Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda just after the hour, a blatantly incorrect decision that gifted Frank Lampard an equaliser from the penalty spot.

To add to Styles' unpopularity at Anfield, he also was clearly seen to brandish a second yellow card at Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien in the 73rd minute, without adding the required red, although the official later claimed he had only been showing yellow to Essien's team mate John Terry.

Liverpool management and players were also furious at what they saw as intimidation by Chelsea players of the match official although Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho refuted such a charge.

"I think I have a naive team," said Mourinho.

"Because they are pure, they are clean. We don't have divers, we don't have violent people. We don't make nasty tackles, we don't have players diving in the swimming pool. Chelsea is a naive team, a pure team."

Benitez, however, could not conceal his disgust at his opposite number's claims.

"If Chelsea are naive and pure, then I am Little Red Riding Hood," said Benitez.

"I won't say any names but you can check the team sheet and think how many times they do the things they say they don't do. Their players are talking to the referee all the time."

It was hard not to imagine that Styles had been pressured into his penalty decision, so bad was the call.

"What penalty?" said Benitez when quizzed about it.

"Jose Mourinho said that he couldn't see the penalty but that's normal - 45,000 people couldn't see it!"

The notion of Styles being placed under pressure by Chelsea players was shared by Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

"I think a very, very unfair decision got Chelsea a point," said Gerrard.

"I felt as if the ref didn't do well today. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and eventually he cracked. I hope he comes out and says that because we as players, when we make mistakes, we come out and say so."

While the latest meeting between two bitter rivals will have done little to improve strained relations, the consolation for both teams is that Manchester United's worst start to a season in 15 years has fuelled the title ambitions of both Chelsea and Liverpool.

And Mourinho claimed his team's style of play also indicated a new, attacking intent that he has brought to bear at Stamford Bridge this season.

"I think it is too early to look at opponents," said Mourinho.

"Manchester United have two points but even if they had zero points I would say they are serious contenders for the title. That doesn't influence me. We came here to win the game and I think we showed that with the team we started.

"A lot of people would think today was a game we would come to look for a point but we gave the answer and came here with a clear attacking team.

"I think we are showing we are playing for results, we want to win things, we want to bring a different style, a different smell."

Meanwhile, Gerrard confirmed that he is highly unlikely to play for England in the midweek friendly against Germany as he only managed to put in a commanding display against Chelsea thanks to a pre-match pain-killing injection.

"It will be assessed in the morning," said Gerrard.

"I have spoken a couple of times with Steve McClaren (who was at the match) and will speak again in the morning. The reality is I have had an x-ray and I need a rest to heal the crack. I looked fit out there because I had a pain-killing injection before the match."

Styles dropped for next weekend's action after clanger

LONDON, Aug 20, 2007 (espnstar.com) - Rob Styles has been told that he will not be refereeing next weekend, after wrongly awarding Chelsea a penalty during the west London side's 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday.

Styles, who has since apologised for his howler, has been told that he will not be officiating during next Saturday and Sunday's BPL action by referees' chief Keith Hackett.

The move comes in the wake of a poor Styles decision that allowed Frank Lampard to equalise from the spot.

Hackett, commenting after seeing Styles wrongly adjudge that Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda, said that Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) which oversees referees, said that officials must pay the price for making major mistakes.

"Accountability exists and we, the PGMOL, do expect referees to get big decisions correct," he revealed.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was left infuriated by the decision.

"That decision is impossible to explain, it was the invisible penalty" said the Spaniard.

To make matters worse for Styles, he also seemed to give Michael Essien a second yellow card but then explained it was meant for John Terry.

Meanwhile, Hackett also took time out to confirm the assistant referee at the Fulham versus Middlesbrough match had also been dropped after Fulham striker David Healy was denied a goal when the ball clearly crossed the line.


Chelsea are fortunate to return to London with a point after a second half Lampard penalty earned a draw at Anfield. The decision by referee, Rob Styles, left Benitez dumbfounded while Mourinho was typically philosophical about his side’s fortunes.

Liverpool beat Chelsea in the corresponding fixture last season but have recently been more successful in cup clashes between the two sides. Making six changes from the win in Toulouse and keeping the injured Gerrard in the side, they hoped to improve their league record against the Blues.

Michael Essien picked up an early booking for a reckless challenge and ended as one of nine men on yellow cards. But it was Liverpool who made a lot of the running at the start of the game and impressed with their sheer determination and hard work during the 90 minutes.

And after Riise’s low drive at Cech from the left, Torres opened the scoring with a goal on his Anfield debut. Gerrard’s inch-perfect pass allowed the Spaniard to show his pace on the left flank before outsmarting Ben Haim and hitting a low shot across the goalkeeper into the far corner.

It was only from this point that Chelsea began to get more into the game. Shaun Wright-Phillips, who seems to be getting better and better as he refines his game for Chelsea, crossed for Drogba who headed comfortably over the bar.

Terry then had a golden chance to equalise for the visitors. Pennant’s foul on Chelsea’s right – and needless booking for dissent – gave Lampard the chance to put in a free kick. Rather worryingly for Benitez, it went straight though a static Liverpool defence and although Terry beat Agger at the far post, he just couldn’t get the final touch.

The Blues upped their game as the second half began. John Obi Mikel headed off target before another great cross from Wright-Phillips was nodded wide at the far post by Pizarro.

But with just over an hour gone, Chelsea were gifted a lifeline from a ghastly mistake by the referee. Wright-Phillips squared the ball along the 18-yard line from the right and Florent Malouda, the player who chose Chelsea over Liverpool in the summer, looked to dummy the ball by jumping over it. But in leaping into Steve Finnan and tumbling to the ground, the Liverpool defender was adjudged to have impeded the player and a penalty was harshly awarded. Lampard stepped up to convert from the spot, sending Reina the wrong way.

This incident spurred Liverpool into searching for the deserved winning goal and they took the game to Chelsea from the restart. A Gerrard ball forward was lobbed back across the face of the goal by Pennant and Torres’ smashing volley flashed wide.

But before either side could get a grip on the game, it quickly degenerated into a farce, which had stemmed from the poor penalty decision earlier. Chelsea claims that Torres had dived and should’ve received a yellow card resulted in a brief confrontation between John Terry and the Spaniard, for which the England defender was booked. But then Rob Styles appeared to show a second yellow card to Michael Essien before pointing over to Terry again. It took some communication with the fourth official to decipher Styles’ method but his lack of clarity fanned tempers on the pitch and contributed to the disruption of the contest.

Once it restarted, Liverpool continued to create the better scoring chances and had Petr Cech to thank for keeping them on level terms. He first saved from Agger with his feet and then tipped over Kuyt’s header before Babel hit the side netting as the game ended 1-1.

Both sides remain unbeaten this season, although Liverpool can feel aggrieved for not recording the win which would’ve moved them into the top five. They looked sharper, more creative and a much-improved side from last season.

Although Chelsea are still in second place, they, too, have lost their 100% record and slip two points behind the resurgent Manchester City who picked up their third win of the season against their Manchester rivals.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Babel 68), Gerrard, Alonso, Riise (Crouch 83), Torres, Kuyt.

Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia, Mascherano.

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Ben-Haim, Terry, Ashley Cole, Kalou (Pizarro 46), Wright-Phillips (Joe Cole 77), Obi, Lampard, Malouda (Alex 85), Drogba.

Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele.

Att: 43,924

Ref: Robert Styles (Hampshire).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toulouse 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool beat Toulouse in the first leg of their Champions League third-round qualifier with a patient and professional performance. Andriy Voronin chested down a ball, turned and rifled in a rising 25-yard shot to put the Reds ahead at the end of a low-key first half.
The closest Toulouse came to a goal was a glancing Johan Elmander near-post shot which was saved by Pepe Reina.
But the Reds kept their rivals at arm's length with ease to secure the win.
Prior to the game, much was made of Peter Crouch allegedly being unhappy at being left out of the squad for the Premiership opener at Aston Villa last Saturday.
The lanky striker started at the Stade Municipal as one of six Reds changes but found time and space at a premium against the home side.
Toulouse defended in numbers as they stayed deep and disciplined with Liverpool probing for an opening.
Both defences were on top in the sweltering heat and a mazy Ryan Babel run - leading to Steven Gerrard wildly slicing a shot high and wide - was the closest to a noteworthy effort early on.
Gerrard (left) had a number of efforts on goal but without success
The game needed something special to spark some life into it and Voronin provided it with his first competitive goal for the club.
He latched on to a Crouch flick-on after 43 minutes and scored with a powerful shot into the top corner.
Toulouse tried to quickly respond only for Achille Emana's acrobatic overhead kick to go narrowly wide.
The goal forced Toulouse to become more attack-minded after the break and they started pressing the Reds higher up the pitch as they chased an equaliser.
And the home side were finally given some encouragement when Elmander got in ahead of Sami Hyypia at the near post and angled in a shot which was saved by Reina.
But that was as good as it got for the home side as they were comfortably contained by last season's Champions League runners-up.
Liverpool even had the luxury of taking off midfielder Gerrard as they took command of the tie ahead of the second leg on Tuesday, 28 August.

Toulouse: Douchez, Ebondo (Sissoko 83), Mathieu, Cetto, Fofana, Paulo Cesar (Gignac 69), Sirieix, Emana, Dieuze, Elmander, Bergougnoux (Mansare 46).Subs Not Used: Riou, Jonsson, Batlles, Fabinho.
Booked: Elmander, Cetto, Sissoko.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa, Benayoun (Riise 59), Gerrard (Sissoko 65), Mascherano, Babel, Voronin (Torres 78), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Agger, Alonso, Kuyt.
Goals: Voronin 43.
Att: 36,000
Ref: Kyros Vassaras (Greece).

Monday, August 13, 2007


Steven Gerrard believes he may already have scored one of the most important goals of Liverpool's season.
The Anfield skipper's brilliantly executed free kick just five minutes from time at Villa Park on Saturday secured all three points for the Reds and ensured they got their campaign off to a winning start. With Villa having levelled just one minute earlier and looking set to deny Liverpool a well deserved opening day success, the importance of the victory - even at this early stage - isn't lost on Gerrard. "I was getting flashbacks to the Middlesbrough game two years ago both from a personal and team point of view," said Gerrard. "I had a load of chances to score, just like in that game, and the one worry when all the celebrations died down is we know we should have had the game won earlier. "But the main thing is we did win and deserved it. The performance was, at times, very good. "I know it's early but I hope it turns out to be one of the most important goals this season because all the lads have been saying through pre-season how much we wanted a good start. "To have not won that game would have been devastating for us after the way we played, but now we feel we can build some momentum, and that's been shown to be so important in this league. "You just can't afford to fall behind to the leaders like we have in the past. "That's why you could see how much it meant to us to win and we were buzzing in the dressing room afterwards. "It was pleasing to see so many good all-round performances on Saturday. Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel did really well."

Benitez impressed with his strikers

Rafael Benitez has earned himself a reputation of being unable to resist rotating his squad at Liverpool but he may finally have found his ideal striking partnership ahead of Wednesday's Champions League qualifier against Toulouse. Despite neither Dutch international Dirk Kuyt nor 26mn pounds Spanish record signing Fernando Torres scoring in the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday, as Liverpool won their first game of the season for the first time since 2002, Benitez is ready to give the pair a second chance in the first leg in France. Benitez has been hugely impressed by the way Torres and Kuyt have formed an instant understanding in the short space of time since the Spanish striker arrived from Atletico Madrid and he is keen for them to develop that partnership further. "I am very happy with both of them. They have got together very well and they look a threat. Their movement and understanding is very good and it will get better if we encourage it," said Benitez. "I was very pleased with the way Fernando played his first game in the Premiership at Aston Villa. He showed good class and was impressive at times. "Normally players take time to settle in but he seems to have adapted very well. There are one or two things that he can work on, but he will be okay." England international Peter Crouch, Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano and Israeli international Yossi Benayoun were all left out of the travelling squad for the trip to Birmingham but the trio could all be included in the party for the away leg in Toulouse. "They were not injured. We have a big squad and I decided to leave them behind, but there will be chances for everyone this season because we could have to play more than 60 games and we need everyone," added Benitez. "It is important for us to have a deep squad and for players to be ready to rotate in and out of the side. There will be changes a lot of the time to keep people fresh and in good condition. That is up to me." Benitez remains confident that he will be able to sign Manchester United defender Gabriel Henize before the transfer deadline at the end of August. There is a meeting scheduled for August 20 to settle the legal wrangle over the 29-year-old and Benitez added: "I am still very confident, but I need to wait until the meeting." Benitez has hinted that he might not be willing to take part in such a hectic pre-season build up next season, despite starting the season with a win. The Asia Cup in Hong Kong and the Rotterdam tournament has seen Liverpool dashing all over the world in the last six weeks. "If it is organised properly and good for the club then we would take part in the Asia tournament again but I would prefer to do pre-season in Europe. That would be my preference. We had too many commitments this summer." Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill will this week redouble his efforts to sign West Bromwich Albion defender Curtis Davies, after having had a sevenmn pounds offer for the England under-21 international rejected. "I know that we need to be stronger in the squad and have more depth and we will be doing all we can to strengthen this week. That is our priority," said O'Neill. (AFP)

Villa's anything but a holiday

JUST after Gareth Barry scored that dubiously awarded penalty on Saturday - Martin O'Neill please note - I think all Liverpool supporters were probably thinking "here we go again".
We'd played well, had most of the possession and missed a host of chances and here we were back at 1-1.
Thankfully, up steps Stevie G to hit home an excellent free-kick and ensure we got the three points the performance deserved.
O'Neill later griped that Gerrard had played for the free-kick but failed to mention that Petrov could be seen holding Gerrard back. An obvious foul and rightly punished.
Villa is a difficult place to go at the best of times but especially on the opening day of a new season.
Last season, only United got three points there and recently Villa trounced Inter Milan in a friendly.
To come away with the three points and a very encouraging overall performance was as much as we could have hoped for and we got both.
Kuyt and Torres seem to be developing a real understanding. Torres is very quick for a big man and has deft skills and quick feet. The signs look good. As they also do for Babel, who made an immediate impression with his skill and shooting.
The fact that Crouch, Mascherano, Kewell and Benayoun did not even travel shows the depth the squad has, with maybe more signings to come.
Gerrard's joy as he ran to the visiting fans after his free-kick was plain to see and hopefully we will see that smile a lot more this season as the Reds march towards the Premiership and on to Moscow.

Gerrard spurs Liverpool

A stunning 87th-minute free-kick by captain Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa as the new Premier League season opened on Saturday. Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City beat West Ham United 2-0, Roy Keane's promoted Sunderland snatched a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur and Sam Allardyce's first game as Newcastle United boss ended in a 3-1 win at former club Bolton Wanderers. Liverpool looked set for a disappointing start when their 31st-minute lead, courtesy of an own goal by Villa's Danish defender Martin Laursen, was cancelled out by Gareth Barry's 85th-minute penalty.
But Gerrard curled home an inswinging free-kick from 25 metres two minutes later, dipping the ball into the top right-hand corner after deftly bending it around the Villa wall. “Over the last couple of seasons, we've been very frustrated with the starts we've made,” Gerrard told Setanta Sports. “We've dropped silly points and been playing catch up with the big boys early on. The idea this year is to get a solid start and try to stay in the (title) race all the way.” Manchester City's goals came from new signings, following the takeover by former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, with Italian striker Rolando Bianchi and Brazilian midfielder Geovanni on target. Sunderland's winner came from new signing and substitute Michael Chopra in the fourth minute of stoppage time. There was no room for sentiment for Allardyce on his return to the Reebok Stadium. His side were 3-0 up in under half an hour, with Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins scoring twice, as they swept aside a Bolton side managed by his former assistant Sammy Lee. Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 2-1, Everton were 2-1 winners over Wigan Athletic and promoted Derby County drew 2-2 with Portsmouth.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Xabi Alonso believes Liverpool now have the ability to make an impact in the title race.
The Basque midfielder will be a key component of boss Rafael Benitez's side as they embark on a new campaign at Aston Villa on Saturday.
And Alonso revealed he is confident that the new players who have arrived the club in a £40million summer spending spree, will be up to the task of maintaining a consistent title challenge.
Alonso said of Benitez's buying: "The manager has bought good, new offensive players and that will be a major boost for us.
"I understand the expectations from the fans, I have been a fan myself and it is normal for supporters to have a lot of faith in the players.
"It is up to us to produce the form needed to match those expectations."
And Alonso is raring to go, saying: "We are all now glad that pre-season is over and we are looking forward very much to the new season and the game at Aston Villa.
"We have worked very hard now for several weeks and we are in good condition.
"Everyone is ready, and everyone is available. We have no injury worries and it is all now down to the manager's selection for the match.
"I know everyone is asking us already about the title race, and I understand that. But I would prefer to just consider each game and hope that we can put together the performances we need."
He added: "Over the last three years we have sometimes lacked consistency away from home and we have not always started the season well.
"Now we have to look at those sort of games, and the way we start a season, and make sure we improve. I feel now that we have the squad to do that.
"I have signed a new contract and I am very happy with the work the manager has done in the transfer market this summer.
"It is getting harder to win the Premier League, the standard is improving every season with the players coming into the country. But week by week we believe we will have the quality needed."
Benitez has a fully fit squad to chose from, which leaves him with a tough task of selecting his two strikers with Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, Andriy Voronin and Fernando Torres all battling for a spot in the starting line-up.
And the manager points out that the size of your transfer fee does not ensure a starting place.
He said: "We have played big money for people like Torres, but that is the market. When they get into the squad they are all equal, the fee does not come into it."


Liverpool have today completed the signing of Argentinian youngster Sebastian Leto.
Leto, who received permission to make his debut during last weekend's Port of Rotterdam tournament, will offer manager Rafael Benitez more options on the left side of midfield after the Reds beat off competition from Real Betis and River Plate for his signature. Liverpool are now awaiting international clearance for the player before he can make his official debut. He will wear squad number 33.

Lens goalkeeper goes to Anfield

LONDON: Racing Lens have sold France Under-21 goalkeeper Charles Itandje to Liverpool for an undisclosed fee, the Ligue 1 club said on Thursday.
The transfer is likely to mean that reserve Scott Carson will leave Anfield for a rival Premier League team, with media reports having linked the keeper with a loan move to Aston Villa.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is set to use Itandje as back-up for first-choice Jose Reina.
Benitez also wants to abandon his strategy of deploying Steven Gerrard on the right flank, saying he now accepts the England international’s best position is in the centre of midfield.
The Spanish coach has reinforced his options out wide by signing Ryan Babel from Ajax Amsterdam and West Ham United’s Yossi Benayoun during the close season.
“We have brought in wingers because we know Steven Gerrard is not a proper winger,” Benitez told reporters on Thursday.
“It is clear he likes to play as a central midfielder and I think that could be his best position.” – Reuters

Gerrard very confident about Liverpool chances

Steven Gerrard is "very confident" after Liverpool's summer buying spree as he prepares for a campaign playing in his favoured central role.
The Liverpool skipper has been impressed with boss Rafael Benitez's ?40million of new signings, more so because it is likely to see him leading the side from central midfield rather than the right-sided role he has frequently occupied under the Spanish coach.
Gerrard, speaking to LiverpoolTV, said: "I like to play in the middle, everyone knows that, but it is a team game and points are more important, so I can't be selfish and say I want this and that.
"But we have bought wingers, so the middle is where I want to play and I am looking forward to that now.
"Rafa has brought in quality players and we are stronger. But I won't make any judgements now, I've done that before and things have not always worked out.
"But the new boys will make an impact, they all have individual qualities to bring to the squad, and we are all very confident.
"And I known how things work here, how the focus is on a new player to score. But Fernando Torres will handle that pressure of being expected to score goal, he is a top player who works really hard for the team, that is what matters."

Carson joins Villa

As expected since the arrival of Charles Itandje, Scott Carson has joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan worth £2m to Liverpool.
The Reds keeper, who was on loan at Charlton last season, needs first team football in order to break into the England side, but will have little opportunity behind Pepe Reina.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fulham told to increase Liverpool defender bid

FULHAM boss Lawrie Sanchez has been told to up his £1million offer for Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia.
The Finland centre half, a close friend of Fulham keeper Antti Niemi, is keen to move to Craven Cottage for regular football and Sanchez is desperate for an experienced centre-back.
But Sanchez does not want to match Liverpool’s £2.5m valuation for a player who is 33 and out of contract next summer.

Liverpool boss delighted to see Torres score

Fernando Torres has broken his duck for Liverpool in their penultimate pre-season friendly against Shanghai Shenhau.
The £20m striker picked up a Yossi Benayoun pass and chipped it home as Liverpool recorded a 2-0 win in the Rotterdam tournament.
Captain Steve Gerrard sent a curling 20-yard shot home for the second.
"Getting off the mark will give Torres confidence heading into the new season," said Reds boss Rafael Benitez.
"I was very pleased with Fernando, it was very important for him to score his first goal for Liverpool.
"When Peter Crouch first joined us, everyone was asking when he was going to score. Torres has now got that and that takes the pressure off.
"Both goals were really good and I was very pleased with the performance of my players."
Liverpool will aim to round off their pre-season programme with a good performance against hosts Feyenoord on Sunday.

Champions League draw tricky for Liverpool

Liverpool and Arsenal were both handed tricky Champions League qualifying ties yesterday which threaten financial disaster if they miss out on the lucrative group stages.
Rafael Benitez and Arsene Wenger would miss out on the opportunity to make tens of millions of pounds if their teams are knocked out during the third qualifying round stage - the gateway to the lucrative groups - later this month.

Liverpool face Toulouse, who were third in the French league, and Arsenal take on Sparta Prague, champions of the Czech Republic and winners of their league five times in the last eight seasons. The four teams were among the 18 entering at this stage. Neither Liverpool or Arsenal have failed to make the group stage before.
Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas put the two-legged ties into sharp context. "Not getting into the Champions League [group stage] would be a disaster for Arsenal, definitely. We have to be there," he said. "It's the most important game of the season right now. If we don't get in, the season won't be the same from the start. We want to be in the Champions League because this is Arsenal."
Benitez was not showing any dissatisfaction yesterday, however, when he said: "I'm happy with the draw for two reasons. Firstly, the travelling won't be a problem, and secondly, the second leg will be at Anfield in front of our supporters.
"After travelling to Hong Kong, Switzerland and Rotterdam, the last thing we wanted was a long trip.
"Toulouse are a good side with some good players. The French league is of a high standard and so this will not be an easy game."
According to figures issued by Uefa last month, AC Milan earned about £30 million from winning the competition last season, and that does not take into account ticket receipts. Chelsea took about £25 million, with Liverpool, beaten finalists, not far behind. Almost half of Arsenal's income the season before last, when they reached the final, came from the Champions League.
Liverpool, arguably, have even more to lose than Arsenal. They have spent £36.5 million on players this season and could invest again when they know they are in the group stages.
Arsenal can gain some comfort from history in their previous meetings with Sparta - they first became aware of Tomas Rosicky when they met in the group stage seven years ago.
Much of the burden of scoring for Arsenal this season will rest on the shoulders of Eduardo da Silva, who hit the winner against Lazio on Thursday, his first goal for the club. He played against Arsenal at the same stage of the competition last season, scoring in a 5-1 aggregate defeat. "It is important Eduardo has played in the Champions League and has experience of the competition," Fabregas said. "It should help us all."
Scottish champions Celtic have a tricky match against Spartak Moscow, who play on an artificial pitch.
Rangers, who hold a 2-0 first-leg lead over FK Zeta in their second qualifying round tie, will play Crvena Zvezda or Levadia Tallinn if they progress. Crvena, also known as Red Star Belgrade, hold a 1-0 lead over Estonian side Levadia Tallinn after the first leg in Serbia.