Sunday, September 30, 2007

Benayoun earns praise

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had special praise for Yossi Benayoun after the Israel international grabbed the only goal of the game in the vital win at Wigan Athletic.
It looked as though the Reds would have to settle for another Premier League stalemate following their recent 0-0 draws with Portsmouth and Birmingham City until substitute Benayoun pooped up to score the all-important winner.
A relieved Benitez said: "I brought him here for these kinds of games.
"When you are trying to find a solution, you need players of creativity and quality, and Yossi gives us that.
"I am not saying he will start every game on the bench, it's just that in this instance I wanted to do different things.
"Yossi played the other night (in the Carling Cup against Reading) and I needed fresh legs, so I started with (Jermaine) Pennant.
"We created some chances and you need to take them if you want an open game.
"Because we didn't we needed to bring on players with different skills and Yossi was good, it was perfect."

Wigan 0 - 1 Liverpool

Second-half sub Yossi Benayoun sunk Wigan with a terrific finish but it was tough on the battling Latics.who have still to take a single point from any of the Premier League's so called big four.
Benayoun was sent on to replace Fabio Aurelio and broke the deadlock 20 minutes later, showing neat footwork before burying the chance from eight yards.
And in a dramatic finish Julius Aghahowa glanced a stoppage-time header just wide when he really should have scored.
Liverpool's record buy Fernando Torres had had chances galore in the first half, but the lethal touch he showed when he hit a Carling Cup hat-trick against Reading deserted him and it was goalless at the break.
But there was controversy when Wigan twice had strong penalty appeals turned down.
A Michael Brown shot struck Steven Gerrard on the arm and in the other incident Paul Scharner was flagged offside as Aghahowa appeared to be brought down in the box by Jame Carragher.
The Reds had produced the first threat of the game when skipper Gerrard forced his former team-mate Chris Kirkland into action after just 66 seconds.
He beat the wall with a well struck free-kick but Kirkland got down well to hold it safely.
Torres had his first sniff when strike partner Dirk Kuyt played him in but the shot lacked power and Emmerson Boyce blocked it.Jermaine Pennant had one effort deflected off course and three times Torres found himself in good positions but failed to cash in.
A mistake by Jason Koumas gifted him a real chance but Kirkland used his legs to block and the rebound went wide.
For Wigan Marcus Bent tried his luck from long range and a speculative strike from Josip Skoko failed to trouble Jose Reina.
Torres looked in vain for a penalty when he went down under a challenge but the replay revealed no contact.
But the Wigan claims - rejected by the ref - looked more convincing.
The Latics did have the ball in the Liverpool net when Bent hammered in Skoko's cross but he was ruled offside.
Koumas had Reina at full stretch and Kirkland earned his money keeping one out from Kuyt as the game opened up.
There was more drama as Scharner chased a long ball into the box, but he was beaten by the bounce after getting a slight touch, and it went wide.
Gerrard rattled one just past the post as the Reds turned the screw and the reward came when Benayoun raced on to Pennant's pass, turned Titus Bramble and Kirkland was finally beaten.
Wigan tried desperately to salvage a point with Ryan Taylor going close and Aghahowa missing with that late header.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Torres hat-trick inspires Reds

FERNANDO Torres scored a hat-trick to inspire Liverpool to a 4-2 victory at Reading in the League Cup third round.
The Spain striker was on target three times in the second half after Israeli Yossi Benayoun put Liverpool in front before the break with his first goal for the club. Arsenal, last season's runners-up, rested virtually their entire first team against Newcastle United but still ran out 2-0 winners with late goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Brazilian Denilson. Two other Premier League sides got through. Manchester City beat Norwich City 1-0 with a Georgios Samaras goal one minute from time while Portsmouth triumphed 1-0 at Burnley thanks to David Nugent. Fourth division Morecambe's run came to an abrupt end as they went down 5-0 at second division Sheffield United. Torres, surprisingly left out of Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Birmingham City in the Premier League at the weekend, was unstoppable at Reading. Benayoun's 23rd-minute effort was cancelled out by Bobby Convey's volley before Torres pounced five minutes after the break with a precise low finish after being played in by Sebastian Leto. Reading levelled again after 64 minutes through John Halls but Torres proved the difference. John Arne Riise came off the bench to tee up Torres after 72 minutes and the Spaniard struck again four minutes from time after rounding the Reading keeper.

Reading 2-4 Liverpool

Fernando Torres capped a fine display with a hat-trick as Liverpool dumped Reading out of the Carling Cup.
Yossi Benayoun fired Liverpool ahead, but Bobby Convey volleyed an equaliser from Nicky Shorey's corner.
Torres raced clear to score but again Reading hit back when another Shorey corner was prodded in by John Halls.
But Torres made sure of their place in the fourth round when he slammed home from a John Arne Riise square ball and then ran clear before slotting home.
Despite both sides making a host of changes there was no doubting the importance of the game as they combined to produce an entertaining and competitive encounter.
But Torres' all-round contribution and sublime finishing skills proved the difference between the Premier League sides and will have sent out a warning to their domestic rivals.
It was the perfect response after being left on the bench by manager Rafael Benitez against Birmingham at the weekend.
Reading caused problems for Liverpool's backline from the start, with Leroy Lita guilty of missing a glorious early chance when he headed Halls' cross straight at the Reds' debutant keeper Charles Itandje.
Instead it was Benayoun who opened the scoring when he picked up the ball 10 yards outside the area, nutmegged Andre Bikey before crashing his shot past Adam Federici.
Convey capped his recent return from injury with a first goal in over 18 months, meeting Shorey's corner from the right with a volley which found the bottom corner.
Liverpool were unhappy with the goal, with three Reading players standing in offside positions.
But Torres put them back in control after the break when he was sent through on goal by Sebastian Leto and held off Bikey before easily slipping it past Federici.
Torres was giving Bikey a torrid time and should have been rewarded with a penalty when the Reading defender hurled him down in the area.
Reading threatened to make Liverpool pay when another Shorey corner was stabbed home at the second attempt by Halls for his first goal for the club.
But Riise came off the bench to tee-up Torres and he confidently drilled past Federici.
The lively Lita had an overhead kick tipped over but it was Torres' day as he was sent clear and he teased Federici before rounding the keeper and tapping in to secure the win and the match ball.
Reading: Federici, Halls (Kitson 80), Duberry, Bikey, Shorey, De la Cruz, Harper, Convey (Hunt 80), Fae, Long (Henry 79), Lita.Subs Not Used: Hahnemann, Cisse.
Booked: Bikey, Duberry, Fae.
Goals: Convey 28, Halls 64.
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Lucas (Hobbs 89), Aurelio (Riise 69), Arbeloa, Benayoun, Sissoko, Leto, Crouch (Gerrard 77), Torres.Subs Not Used: Martin, Putterill.
Booked: Lucas.
Goals: Benayoun 23, Torres 50, 72, 86.
Att: 23,563.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Rafa simmers, Torres stews

Rafa Benitez fought his corner, as he always does, but a telling insight into the pre-match mood in Birmingham's dressing room ended any arguments about the wisdom of Fernando Torres being confined to the bench.
After costing £20million-plus from Atletico Madrid, Torres might reasonably have expected to spearhead Liverpool's attack more often than not, particularly in the quest for an elusive first Premier League title.
As further proof that predicting Benitez team selections is nigh on impossible, however, he found himself looking on for a second Saturday running as Liverpool succeeded only in leaving their title credentials open to derision.
Endeavour may be a virtue in Benitez's eyes, but making hard work of a side like Birmingham will do little to promote the theory that this may finally be their year.
In a response almost as predictable as his side's attempts to break down a stubborn blue barrier, the manager flatly refused to acknowledge he may have erred in resting Torres, even though the striker has all week to recharge his batteries given that he will surely be excused Carling Cup duty at Reading.
There was a hint of exasperation about his defence, not to mention desperation, as he tried to claim Andriy Voronin was better equipped than Torres for unpicking a massed defence.
"I say 100 times I know my players and when they are tired," he said. "It is easy to talk afterwards about whether I should have used one or the other, but the decision has to be taken before.
"If you have space, Torres would be the best bet of a goal, but there was never going to be any space.
"When you are looking at working between the lines, maybe Voronin is the best we have because his movement is so good.
"We had plenty of possession but very few chances and it is a problem we're going to have to address when teams come to defend."
Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor revealed how Torres' exclusion had provided the springboard for Birmingham's combative rearguard action.
"I was surprised I didn't have more to do and just as surprised Torres wasn't in their line-up," he said.
"They have other great strikers but we were pleased to learn we wouldn't have to cope with him. He is the main man and it gave us a lift."
Benitez's stance was further undermined by Torres's impact when he replaced Ryan Babel on the hour.
Ruffling Birmingham's defence like nobody had before, the Spain striker went close to a spectacular winner with a flying bicycle kick.
To compound Benitez's woes, he was warned to expect more Anfield
frustration as opposite number Steve Bruce mapped out the formula he expects visiting teams to adopt. "You can come here with a 4-4-2 system and have a nice open game if you like, but if you want something out of it you have to stick to your game plan," he said. "That means running a million miles like some of my defenders did and not giving Liverpool an inch."
When he wasn't being pilloried over players left out, Benitez was being grilled over one he selected - Steven Gerrard, no less, who appeared to be feeling the effects of his England exertions.
"It was not ideal that he played in both their recent games," said Benitez. "He is not 100 per cent fresh but the question is how important is Stevie for England? "You suggest it might be better for him not to play and people pick you up on it and say, 'Hey, this is the national team. Keep out of it.' You can't win, really."

Liverpool 0-0 Birmingham

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez left Fernando Torres out of his starting line-up and paid the price again as Birmingham earned a point at Anfield.
Torres looked a cut above the rest of Liverpool's strikers when he emerged on the hour, but Birmingham's defence had established the platform for a point.
John Arne Riise was just off target and Steven Gerrard's shot was kicked off the line in a lacklustre display.
Torres' over-head kick was inches over, but Birmingham deservedly held on.
Benitez surprisingly preferred Ryan Babel to £26m Torres, and his side lacked punch in the opening 45 minutes.
Riise posed the main danger with a shot across the face of goal and a rising shot off target.
Birmingham suffered a setback after 10 minutes when Borja Oubina, signed on loan from Celta Vigo, was stretchered off with what looked like a serious knee injury.
Former Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant had a 20-yard drive turned over by Maik Taylor, but otherwise Steve Bruce's side survived in relative comfort.
Liverpool showed a greater purpose after the break, with Gerrard having a shot turned off the line by Mehdi Nafti following Pennant's corner.
Andriy Voronin saw a shot saved by Taylor before Torres was finally introduced for the disappointing Babel.
Peter Crouch was sent on with 17 minutes left in place of Voronin, but a moment of magic from Torres almost broke the deadlock.
The Spain striker produced a brilliant bicycle kick from Pennant's cross that flew only inches over the bar.
Birmingham had barely been seen as an attacking force, but Gary McSheffrey wasted a chance with 10 minutes to go, shooting wildly off target when well placed.
Torres' flick then set up Crouch in the area, but the England striker hesitated and Stephen Kelly produced a superb saving tackle.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"I have four strikers, I played them all in the end.
"I felt that Andriy Voronin and Dirk Kuyt were the type of striker I would have needed to work hard against a packed defence.
"The game was very frustrating, we tried to play wide, we tried to get the ball into the box and we did everything we could to break them down.
"In the end we ran out of ideas. The game was too narrow, it was too congested in the box and there was no space."
· Birmingham manager Steve Bruce:"We are their bogey side in league games and we aimed to continue that.
"We only had about three lads out there who had even been to Anfield before.
"As a club we have to love occasions like this, playing at venues like this, and we want to be back here next season.
"We know we are going to be one of the clubs loitering around the bottom of the table, and it is absolutely vital that we stay in the division."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Pennant (Finnan 87), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Torres 60), Kuyt, Voronin (Crouch 74).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Sissoko.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Djourou, Ridgewell, Queudrue, Larsson, Palacios (O'Connor 68), Nafti, Melendez (McSheffrey 13), Kapo, Jerome (Schmitz 80).Subs Not Used: Kingson, Forssell.
Booked: Ridgewell, McSheffrey.
Att: 44,215
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Jermaine Pennant saw red as Liverpool's Champions League Group A campaign began with a hard fought draw in Portugal.
The Reds were forced to play the majority of the second half with ten men after the winger was dismissed for a second bookable offence on 57 minutes. But Rafael Benitez's men hung on to secure what, in the circumstances, is a solid point. Liverpool had gone in at the break level after Dirk Kuyt's close range header on 17 minutes cancelled out Lucho Gonzalez's early penalty. The Reds made a shaky start and were lucky not to fall behind after just two minutes when Steve Finnan's attempted clearance was deflected into the path of Lisandro but his effort was well blocked by the advancing Pepe Reina. The dangerous Quaresma then took advantage of a weak headed clearance from Sami Hyypia to flash a volley just over the bar. The warning signs were there for Liverpool but they did not take heed and on eight minutes Sektioui exposed Hyypia for pace before falling under the challenge of Pepe Reina. Referee Luchos Michel pointed to the spot and as Reina dived to his right Lucho Gonzalez calmly clipped the ball down the middle. The Reds needed a quick reaction and they got one just after quarter of an hour. Steve Finnan's free-kick was guided back across goal by Sami Hyypia giving Dirk Kuyt the chance to nod Liverpool level and notch his third goal of the season. The remainder of the first-half saw both sides play an open style of football but neither came close to adding to the scoreline. The Reds began the second period with renewed impetus but that all changed on 57 minutes when Jermaine Pennant received the first red card of his Liverpool career. The winger had been booked for an ill-timed challenge on Quaresma on 25 minutes and was given his marching orders just before the hour mark for a needless foul on Fucile. But despite playing the best part of half an hour a man short Liverpool stood firm and although Sami Hyypia was forced to clear a Quaresma effort off the line on 60 minutes, the hosts created very few opportunities despite their possession.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Finnan, Babel, Gerrard (captain), Mascherano, Pennant, Torres, Kuyt. Subs - Crouch, Itandje, Aurelio, Leiva, Voronin, Agger, Benayoun

FC Porto: , Fucile, Alves, Paulo, Bosingwa, Quaresma, Meireles, Assuncao, (captain), Lopez, Sektioui. Subs - Stepanov, Bolatti, Kazmierczak, , Farias, Cech, Gonzalez Referee: Lubos Michel Conditions: Mild

Porto 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool escaped with a fortunate draw after a poor display against Porto in this Champions League Group A match.
Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina gave away a penalty and was beaten by Lucho Gonzalez's spot-kick on eight minutes.
Despite their error-strewn first-half performance, Dirk Kuyt pulled Liverpool level with a close-range header.
But Liverpool had to play with 10 men for over 30 minutes of the second half after Jermaine Pennant was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.
If Liverpool are to reach their third Champions League final in four years they will have to cut out the mistakes that littered their play in the first half.
Too many Liverpool players were too ponderous and too often the visitors conceded possession too easily.
In Ricardo Quaresma, Porto had a player all too eager to capitalise on Liverpool's mistakes.
Unfortunately for the Portuguese champions had nobody to finish off Quaresma's impressive approach work.
Quaresma gave Steve Finnan and Pennant all sorts of problems on the right for Liverpool as they tried to keep track of the tricky Porto winger.
Pennant was booked for a first-half tackle on Quaresma and the former Arsenal winger was sent off just before the hour when he foolishly fouled Lucile.
Trying to chase a Javier Mascherano pass, Pennant swung wildly as the Uruguayan shielded the ball.
A pointless challenge that ensured Pennant's deserved dismissal.
Strangely Liverpool looked more cohesive at a numerical disadvantage and apart for a half-chance for Quaresma the final 30 minutes passed without too many scares for the visitors.
Late on Quaresma had track back to his own penalty area to ensure Kuyt did not reach Steven Gerrard's dangerous pass.
The first 10 minutes must have been akin to a horror movie for Liverpool's perfectionist manager Rafael Benitez.
Finnan was too slow in trying to clear his lines and after he was tackled by Quaresma the ball richocheted to Lisandro Lopez.
The Porto striker had just Reina to beat, but the Spanish keeper did well to block Lopez's shot.
Carragher was the next Liverpool defender to fail to clear, enabling Quaresma to send in a shot that just went over the bar.
Liverpool might have escaped on those two occassions, but there was to be no repreive when a third mistake was made.
Tarik Sektioui was too quick for Sami Hyypia and then for Reina as the Moroccan went down under the challenge of the Liverpool goalkeeper.
Reina's record of saving penalties is superb, but he was fooled by Gonzalez as the Argentine midfielder put his shot in the centre of the goal as the Spanish keeper dived to his right.
If Finnan and Hyypia had had less than impressive starts the two Liverpool defenders were soon to made amends.
Finnan's diagonal free-kick was headed across the goal by Hyypia and Kuyt beat Nuno with a close-range header

Torres key to Liverpool quest

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has made major improvements to the side that reached the Champions League final last season before losing to AC Milan.
The key arrival is the signing of striker of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid to boost the attack as Liverpool have lacked a true goalscorer since selling Michael Owen to Real Madrid in 2004.
Torres's convincing early season form suggests he can score the goals against Europe's big clubs that have previously evaded Liverpool.
Benitez is a proven master tactician on the European stage with wins over Barcelona, Chelsea and Juventus to boast of, although they have come in a limited defensive style.
Ryan Babel and Jermaine Pennant have been given licence to attack down the wings and create chances for the likes of Torres and Andriy Voronin and recently Liverpool thrashed Premier League strugglers Derby 6-0.
Ukrainian Voronin will fight it out with Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch to play alongside Torres.
Although Benitez has spent over 50 million pounds ($NZ141 million) in the summer his top player is still local boy Steven Gerrard.
The England international has been moved back into his favoured central midfield role where he can control games. He is the driving force of this Liverpool team and leads from the front to guide his side in times of adversity.
A toe injury has restricted his games at the start of the season but Liverpool have reacted positively by going to the top of the league for the first time in five years without him in the side.
Liverpool have good pedigree in the Champions League, having won the tournament five times - most recently in 2005 with their enthralling victory over AC Milan on penalties.
There is a feeling on Merseyside that supporters would rather end 18 years without a league title than lift the Champions League once more.
But Benitez will not sacrifice a chance of further European success and Liverpool are capable of lifting this trophy again.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Portsmouth 0, Liverpool 0

IF liverpool’s agonising wait for the title is to end this season, their allergic response to being top of the table requires urgent treatment.
When the club last made a blistering start to a campaign and led the rest in 2001-02, Gerard Houllier’s side played a watershed game in Middlesbrough.
Houllier’s team selection shunned the popular vote and favoured caution, dismantling the balance of a confident line-up and baring no resemblance to that which had performed so well before.
Liverpool lost that day at The Riverside, were soon caught by Arsenal and never recovered.
The former manager spoke of the importance of resting key men and how one poor performance wouldn’t define a season.
In fact, the long-term impact was far greater than a single defeat.
While it’s stupidly premature to suggest this far better Liverpool team will suffer the same fate, there are times when warnings from the past are useful.
Liverpool didn’t lose at Fratton Park on Saturday, but there was an undeniable sense of negativity in the air from the moment the team was announced.
Rather than signal a desire to grasp the initiative, building on the momentum of a thrilling start to the campaign, Liverpool limped their way to a point on the south coast.
A grand opportunity to consolidate their advantage as league leaders was squandered as a direct result of simmering contempt against the fixture schedulers.
Rafa Benitez has won the moral high ground in his argument against the Premier League regarding the timing of these games. The unfavourable contrast with the demands on Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal is too definite for him to ignore, but there’s nothing he can do about it this season.
The ferocious vocal campaign should reap its reward next summer if the club as a whole is stubborn enough in its opposition to illogical, disadvantageous kick-off times.
For now, making the point in Press conferences is more favourable than doing so in team selections, which the manager certainly did here.
None of the starters played a full 90 minutes for their country in midweek. Sadly, there are certain games when freshness is no substitute for quality, and this tricky away clash proved such an occasion.
There was a sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy at work. Liverpool expected to suffer a post-international hangover and so it proved.
Whether analysing how a fixture will go with the benefit of foresight rather than hindsight is the way to galvanise the troops is a matter of debate. The Premier League fixture list will only ‘sabotage’ an Anfield title bid if Liverpool allow it to.
The absence of Fernando Torres served only to underline his importance in transforming Liverpool from a good team to a potential championship winner.
Without him, there was no punch, threat or pace in attack.
This was especially frustrating during the opening 25 minutes when Portsmouth were still sleeping, regularly losing possession in dangerous areas, but able to do so without suffering the necessary punishment.
Andriy Voronin’s application means he’s always a menace, but the recalled Peter Crouch had no joy against Sol Campbell.
And without the speed of Torres as an easy target, the midfield which had coped so admirably in recent times without Steven Gerrard had no idea how to penetrate the home defence.
The swift conclusion was reached Liverpool may be able to survive the loss of Gerrard for a couple weeks, and indeed Torres for a game or two, but it won’t achieve much when both are absent at the same time.Disappointingly, a draw became an increasingly good result as the game progressed

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Rafael Benitez today praised Liverpool's unsung defensive hero after Alvaro Arbeloa's 90 minute display at the weekend ensured he remains the only outfield player to play every second of every match so far this season.

The 24-year-old - who only started playing at left back for the first time this season - has been a constant figure in the first team as the Reds have climbed to the top of the table and qualified for the group phase of the Champions League. "Arbeloa has done a good job for us so far," said Benitez. "He is a young, fit boy and we know he is only going to get better in the future. "He wasn't used to the left back position at all but he has come in and performed very well. When you look how well he did on his debut for us up against Lionel Messi in Barcelona then you can see he is a player with ability. "His best positions are in the centre or on the right, so it shows his quality that he can come into a new team and adapt in a different role. "We've had international breaks and some problems with injuries this season and so we've used players who have been working with us and who are fit. He's taken the chances he has been given very well. "We're very pleased with him but he can still improve. He needs to keep working hard and if he maintains his form then I'm sure he'll play many more games for us this season." The boss has also spoken of his delight that while goals are flying in at one end of the field, the door has regularly been locked shut on opposition defences at the other end. "Over the past couple of years we have been very tight at the back and not given too much away. I'm pleased we've started the season in the same way," he said. "It's important when the forward players are scoring goals to make sure you're keeping them out at the back and at the moment we're playing well as a team unit."


The Real Madrid captain claims life on Merseyside and in the Premier League is making his countryman a better player. "He was an icon at Atletico Madrid and had to make a personal decision, one that I respect. There is a different air about him now, and it looks like he is enjoying the experience," said Raul. "I watched his debut against Aston Villa on television, and I also saw his great goal against Chelsea. "There can be no doubt that he has taken an important step in the right direction. He gave a lot to Atletico Madrid, and this is a new challenge, though I am sure that he will triumph. "With a good coach like Rafa Benitez, and with the help of his Spanish teammates, the process of adaptation will be easier. There is no doubt that he will do well."

Benitez urges England to handle Gerrard with care

Steve McClaren knows that he will have to win the battle over Steven Gerrard's fitness this week if he is to have any hope of playing the 4-4-2 formation that he hopes to implement in the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel on Saturday.
The Liverpool captain's fitness is set to dominate the agenda as England prepare at their Hertfordshire base this week. Gerrard has told the England manager that he will be fit to play against Israel regardless of the scepticism of his club manager, Rafael Benitez, that the hairline fracture to his right foot will mean he can play only in the second game against Russia on 12 September.
Gerrard is unlikely to train with the team this week, which will prevent McClaren from testing out his new 4-4-2 formation that is set to include Emile Heskey in attack alongside Michael Owen.
The England midfield is almost certain to include Owen Hargreaves alongside Gerrard, with Joe Cole on the left and either Shaun Wright-Phillips or David Bentley on the right wing. It is a radical change from the 4-3-3 formation that McClaren was planning before Frank Lampard's injury on Friday.
The certainty with which Gerrard has said that he will play for McClaren suggests that he may be prepared to have a painkilling injection similar to the one which allowed him to get through Liverpool's Premier League game against Chelsea at Anfield last month. England's medical staff will stay in contact with their Liverpool counterparts over that issue.
"We have not taken any risks with Steven at Liverpool and I would not expect England to take any risks with him either," Benitez said. " We do not want Steven to play for England with any painkilling injections. We did that in the game against Chelsea and it took four to five days for him to recover enough to be able to return to training," the Liverpool manager stated.
McClaren has called up the Everton defender Joleon Lescott for the first time as a replacement for Portsmouth's Sol Campbell, who pulled out over the weekend after suffering a groin injury.
Lescott played for England B against Albania at the end of last season. Having impressed during Everton's excellent start to the Premier League campaign, and scored the last-minute winner at Bolton on Saturday, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers player was an obvious choice to fill the gap left by Campbell. "Joleon has been looking very solid for Everton this season, and has also scored a couple of goals," McClaren said.
"He is big and strong and is a threat at set pieces as well. As a defender he makes life difficult for strikers. His versatility means he is a good option, as he can play in the middle of the defence or at full-back.He came on as a sub for the 'B' team at Burnley in May and looked assured and I think he's very capable of making the step up to the full team."

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Liverpool demolished Derby at Anfield to move top of the Premiership table for the first time under Rafael Benitez. A brace apiece from Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres helped leave the Rams at the bottom of the table as the only side without a win in the top flight.Benitez made five changes to his side, with Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher still out and Peter Crouch not even making the squad. Billy Davies also rotated his side, making six changes in attempt to find the net at one end and keep goals out at the other.But it didn’t work as Liverpool took Derby apart and could’ve scored a hatful of goals as they threatened to turn the scoreboard into one more fitting of the Oval.Stephen Bywater was the busier goalkeeper and had to warm his hands early on when he made an excellent one-handed save from Agger’s drive. Then weak defending allowed Pennant to run and cross before Torres beat defender and Bywater saved again.The Derby goal was constantly under threat from the influential Pennant and it was a foul on him which brought the opening goal. Alonso’s diagonal free kick from 35 yards saw Dirk Kuyt run in box distract the defence and the ball went under Bywater into the corner for 1-0.Liverpool continued to make chances and Kuyt couldn’t keep header down and it looked as though Derby could go into the break just a goal ahead. But summer signing Ryan Babel doubled the lead in injury time at the end of the first half with his first goal for the Reds. Arbeloa, a threat all afternoon, played the ball across the 18-yard box. Babel dummied a shot, which saw two Derby defenders rashly dive across each other, leaving Babel the space he needed to coolly slot the ball into the net. The second half saw the Reds continue their dominance and Alonso’s early shot was off target after a strong run by Arbeloa. But just 11 minutes into the half saw Torres score his first of the game to put the result beyond doubt. Another hesitant bit of play from Robert Malcolm allowed Mascherano to make an excellent sliding tackle to win ball on the inside right and Torres made a confident strong run on goal to slot past keeper.The Spaniard should’ve completed his hat trick shortly afterwards when he picked up Babel’s deflected shot, but he dragged his effort wide. Alonso then scored his second of the game when he coolly side-footed home from 20 yards. Babel found too much space on the right after a good pass from Mascherano and slid ball across goal. A solid tackle from substitute McEveley on Benayoun looked to have cleared the danger but the ball only came out to Alonso who steered the ball past Bywater for Liverpool’s fourth. Andriy Voronin got on the score sheet again when he tapped in after 76 minutes to continue the Liverpool rout. Kuyt crossed from right and Bywater, standing at the near post, could only push the ball out to Voronin who scored his third goal in four games from close rangeBut Liverpool still weren’t finished. Torres added his second just two minutes later when he pounced on a poor back pass from Andy Todd to beat Stephen Bywater. The defender lost concentration outside his own area and didn’t make a good connection with the ball, allowing Torres to simply round the keeper and put the ball into an empty net.Fagan summed up Derby’s season so far when he didn’t connect with the ball under Reina’s nose and he weakly skewed the ball embarrassingly wide. With Derby only having two shots all game, this was a chance to get at least one of them on target, but they didn’t even manage that.Liverpool were well in control for the entire game against a weak Derby team who left too much space, didn’t compete enough for the ball and were outclassed in every area of the pitch. It wasn’t just the pace of Torres, the creativity of Pennant or the sublime play of Babel or Mascherano, but the whole fluidity and strength of the powerhouse team which has burst their way to the top of the table.As for Derby, Billy Davies admits that the team needs to come out fighting from the first whistle, but it’s more than this. They are a weak side and need to write off games like this, concentrating instead on the other sides in the Premier League where games are more six-pointers. No doubt they’ll have a struggle this season, but if they can find their feet in the next few games they can at least put up more of a fight than this.Derby are now looking in desperate trouble having conceded an average of three goals a game in their opening five league games and being knocked out of the Carling Cup by Blackpool. With the leakiest defence in England’s top four divisions, Billy Davie has his work cut out.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Arbeloa, Pennant (Benayoun 61), Mascherano (Sissoko 77), Alonso, Babel (Voronin 73), Torres, Kuyt.

Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise.

Derby: Bywater, Griffin (Moore 80), Malcolm (Teale 59), Davis, Camara (McEveley 63), Todd, Fagan, Oakley, Mears, Pearson, Howard.

Subs Not Used: Price, Earnshaw.

Att: 44,076


Fernando Torres has admitted he is loving life at Liverpool and wants to win as many trophies as possible with the Reds.

The record signing, who scored his first goals in front of the Kop in the 6-0 mauling of Derby County, said he has been made to feel very welcome by everyone at Anfield. "I am learning quickly and my teammates have played an important role, along with everyone at the club who have all gone out of their way to help me," commented Torres. "I feel as if I have been at Liverpool for a long time. I intend to stay here for many years to come and I am really pleased with everything - my new teammates, the fans, the city, the stadium and, of course with my first goal at Anfield versus Chelsea. "The experience is more fulfilling when things work out and if we can maintain our recent form, I am sure that everything will continue to move along nicely."

Hyypia commits future to Reds

Sami Hyypia has insisted he is happy at Liverpool and will not be leaving the Reds before the transfer deadline.
The Finn is third-choice centre-back at Anfield behind Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher but the latter's current rib injury means experienced Hyypia is back in Rafa Benitez's starting line-up.Cover is at a premium at centre-back and Hyypia, who has been linked with a move away all summer, insists he is going nowhere."I'll always be ready whenever I get the shout to play," he said. "So far, I'm okay with this situation. I know I'll get to play a lot of games. When I get the chance to play, I'll show what I can do."There were stories in the newspapers about some clubs, but I'd already spoken to the boss after Athens last season and he told me he didn't want to sell me. For me, that was what I wanted to hear."Hyypia said he was pleased with the defensive display in the 4-0 second leg Champions League win over Toulouse in which he headed home the second goal from a corner.He added: "It was a good performance and we did a professional job. It felt good to put the captain's armband on again. "I don't like the way it's come about of course, because I don't want to see Stevie (Gerrard) and Carra injured, but I'm always very proud to be captain of Liverpool."

Benitez salutes Crouch as Reds coast through

Liverpool: Rafael Benitez saluted Peter Crouch as the striker gave him a timely reminder of his quality during the 4-0 Champions League win over Toulouse.
Crouch has spoken of his frustration after failing to make the starting line-up in Liverpool's first three Premiership games - despite scoring 24 times for club and country last season.
But Crouch opened his account for the season as the Reds crushed Toulouse 5-0 on aggregate on Tuesday to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League.
The 26-year-old striker now has eight goals in his last 10 starts in the competition, which should help his cause as he tries to persuade Benitez and England coach Steve McClaren that he is worthy of a place in their teams.
Crouch is suspended for the match against Israel in September but is available for the crunch game with Russia four days later as England's hopes of qualifying for next year's European Championship finals hang in the balance.
Benitez said his goal against Toulouse would give the seven million pounds signing from Southampton a huge confidence boost with McClaren due to name his squad at the end of the week.
"Crouch scored a good goal and had three more chances. He will have more confidence after that goal.
"He could have had more but as long as the team keeps winning then I'll be pleased. But you can see Crouch creating chances."
Crouch set Liverpool on their way to one of their easiest European wins in recent times after poking home a 19th minute cross by Dirk Kuyt to leave Toulouse with a mountain to climb.
Sami Hyypia's first Champions League goal for two-and-a-half-years - a 49th minute header - killed off the visitors for good before Kuyt scored twice in the last three minutes to complete a satisfying night for the hosts. (AFP)


Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt may have lost their previously untouchable status as Liverpool's first-choice strike force, but last night the pair provided boss Rafa Benitez with proof of their enduring value.

With new signings Fernando Torres and Andriy Voronin now Benitez's preferred front pairing after only a handful of games, Crouch and Kuyt were handed the chance to prove they deserve to be more than mere understudies this season. Crouch may not be able to get a look-in when it comes to the Premier League, but last night he provided a timely reminder of why the Champions League stage still manages to bring out the best in him. And Kuyt, who has fared marginally better than Crouch in terms of minutes on the pitch this season, produced a tireless performance which was capped by two deserved goals in the final few minutes. If Benitez really does want serious competition for places between all four of his strikers, then he was provided with it last night as the strength in depth of his front line was confirmed. Toulouse may have provided little in the way of resistance, but there was further evidence in this display of Liverpool's range of options in every position. Restricted to just seven minutes of Premier League action this season and not even included in the 16-man squads for the trips to Aston Villa and Sunderland, Crouch felt sufficiently aggrieved to voice his concern to Benitez. But his performance was the most eloquent protest he could have produced against his prolonged omission, although the England striker knows he still cannot be guaranteed a place in the line-up for Saturday's visit of Derby. Yet with Crouch and Kuyt combining well, Yossi Benayoun providing flair and penetration and Javier Mascherano excelling as the fulcrum of the team, Liverpool coasted into Friday's draw for the group stage and a guaranteed £12million pay out. But the quest for riches and glory in Europe's elite competition was put into stark perspective minutes before kick-off with the playing of the theme tune from Z-Cars, the Everton anthem, in memory of the murdered 11-year-old Rhys Jones. Traditional Merseyside football hostilities were forgotten as the impeccable Liverpool crowd paid a sombre but moving tribute to Rhys with a minute's applause as his mother, father and brother stood on the Anfield touchline. After such an emotional and raw reality check, there seemed little appetite for a game of football, and the usually vociferous Anfield crowd were uncharacteristically flat early on. But their team soon stirred them into action. And it was Crouch who made the breakthrough in the 19th minute, stretching out his lanky right leg at the far post to steer the ball over the line from Kuyt's perfect delivery. Liverpool were allowed to play within themselves throughout, simply because their opponents were so lacking in quality. The home side went 2-0 up in the 49th minute when stand-in skipper Sami Hyypia rose unmarked to head home Benayoun's corner. Despite his impressive display, Crouch showed he still has the capacity to enthral and frustrate in equal measure. With 10 minutes to go, he chested the ball down, took another touch and shaped up for what would have been a superbly taken volley. But he blazed the ball over from close range, when he had already done all the hard work. Kuyt went close when a deflected shot hit the bar but his industry was to be rewarded with two late goals. The first came in the 87th minute, a fine shot from an acute angle. The second came in stoppage time, Kuyt lifting the ball over the keeper after Benayoun put him clear. And all this achieved without the presence of inspirational duo Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in a line-up for the first time in a European match in 10 years.