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).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gerrard shares the glory with Fabregas

After swapping goals and sharing points, Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas instinctively sought each other out at the end of this compelling encounter. Liverpool's personification of total commitment embraced the embodiment of Arsenal's Total Football. Respect ruled.
Gerrard and Fabregas uttered a few words of praise, and parted, returning to team-mates who were experiencing conflicting emotions. Liverpool had surrendered the lead to Fabregas' late equaliser and lost Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres to injury.
Liverpool's 1,000th league draw saw them slide from fourth to sixth over the weekend, with Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers on the rise, but they will take heart from some stirring performances from Jamie Carragher, Mascherano, Gerrard and Peter Crouch's lively second-half contribution. Equally encouragingly was a timely reminder of Rafa Benitez's ability to set up teams intelligently in shape and mood.
Urgency characterised Liverpool's play, Benitez's men snapping into tackles from the first hint of Howard Webb's whistle. Andrei Voronin nailed Fabregas early on and was booked, rightly so by the excellent Webb.
The message from the men in red was clear. Liverpool were determined to turn their season around, silencing the growing dissent towards Benitez over his controversial rotation policy. Of the 2,243 entrants who hazarded a guess at Benitez's line-up on, the website dedicated to the manager's whims, only three cracked the code.
With Alonso and Mascherano anchoring a 4-2-3-1 formation, Gerrard was given the attacking platform he craved. With Dirk Kuyt and Voronin stretching the midfield and Torres the target man, Gerrard enjoyed space, setting the stage for his sixth-minute strike.
A system beloved by sides in Benitez's native Spain accommodates Liverpool's most talented central midfielders (Alonso, Mascherano and Gerrard), so Alonso's cruel re-acquaintance with the nightmare of the metatarsal means Benitez may have to place the strategy on hold (unless he gambles with Momo Sissoko). Alonso injured himself landing awkwardly in pursuing a dropping Gerrard free-kick, again raising questions over the strength of the modern boot to withstand high-speed impact.
If mixed feelings over a good point earned at a cost suffused Gerrard and company, Fabregas' team did not know whether to punch the air in joy or beat the ground in frustration. Delighted by their recovery from Gerrard's stunning opener and the late reward for their fine passing and moving, Arsenal still left Anfield believing they should have scored more.
The ambition in the visitors' ranks was voiced by Fabregas. "We always played good football, but we didn't win," said the Spaniard, whose team head the Premier League table on goals scored. "We are disappointed. I scored but I also hit the post. We could have been two points in front with one less game played than Manchester United."
Sir Alex Ferguson had vacated his seat in the directors' box by the time Fabregas struck, but United's manager will have seen enough to know next Saturday's summit meeting at the Emirates will be typically feisty. Whether it will also be a spectacle of flowing football remains to be seen.
What is guaranteed is that neither Ferguson nor Wenger will compromise.Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez will work their moves around Manuel Almunia's box just as Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, Alexander Hleb and Gael Clichy will raid into Edwin van der Sar's box.
If Wenger can teach Emmanuel Adebayor how to avoid the offside trap over the next five days, Arsenal will be an even greater threat on Saturday. The bonfire party weekend promises so many fireworks, that anything less than 90 minutes of sparklers in North London will feel like a damp squib.
Unless Rooney lets fly, the match may not see a goal as thunderous as Gerrard's here, the ball touching 70mph as it sped into Almunia's net. Gerrard played the catalyst and the executioner. A thumping challenge on Mathieu Flamini brought the ball into Liverpool's sway. An initial shot caused chaos and, in the ensuing mess, Fabregas tripped Alonso and Gerrard had his set-piece chance from 20 yards.
Arsenal's wall was poor, the human barrier dissolving into a loose confederation of bodies, and Gerrard took full advantage. Running onto John Arne Riise's tapped pass, Gerrard targeted a gap and the ball disappeared past Almunia.
Euphoria and relief swept around Anfield. Yet as the fans celebrated, wiser heads knew Liverpool really needed the insurance of a second. Even a goal down away from home, Arsenal did not panic. They just sought to pass Liverpool to death, producing the type of one-touch movement that must have revived memories on the Kop of past Liverpool sides.
Pepe Reina saved from Adebayor, following a superb pass from Fabregas. Arsenal's pressure was relentless, forcing Gerrard into some magnificent tackles on Hleb and Kolo Toure. Carragher made some vital clearances.

Even though Liverpool had good chances through Gerrard, Crouch and Riise, Arsenal got their deserved equaliser following a wonderful dribble by Hleb. He picked out the run of Fabregas, who calmly placed the ball past Reina. Fabregas and Gerrard both had great chances to settle it, but the honours were rightly shared.

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal

Cesc Fabregas toe-poked a late goal to cancel out Steven Gerrard's first-half free-kick as Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League.
Gerrard struck on seven minutes, while Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina saved from Emmanuel Adebayor and Tomas Rosicky's lob was cleared off the line.
After the break Emmanuel Eboue hit the post and Fabregas fluffed the rebound.
But Fabregas equalised on 80 minutes and later hit the post as both sides remained unbeaten in the league.
The result means Arsenal reclaim top spot in the table from Manchester United, having scored more goals than their rivals, after an absorbing encounter at Anfield.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez opted for a three-pronged attack with Fernando Torres back after a thigh injury and lining up alongside Dirk Kuyt and Andriy Voronin.
But it was soon apparent that Torres was not going to last the game and he quickly became a passenger in an ineffective front line.
Liverpool's saving grace was the driving force of skipper Gerrard and it was his right boot that delivered a crushing blow, when his ferocious free-kick rocketed past Manuel Almunia.
After a perceived dip in form, Gerrard was playing like a man out to prove a point and he had already tested Almunia with a fizzing low drive.
His harrying denied Arsenal's midfield any time on the ball, but gradually Arsenal regained their composure and played their way into the game to dominate territory and possession.
Yet some breathtaking passing movements between the recalled Tomas Rosicky, Alex Hleb and Fabregas, in particular, could not carve out an equaliser.
Adebayor raced through on goal only for keeper Reina to superbly close him down and save with his chest.
And when Reina was beaten by a deft Rosicky lob, Sami Hyypia was on hand to hook the ball off the line.
Liverpool almost punished Arsenal when Gerrard - who else - thundered in a volley that Almunia pushed over the bar.
Inevitably Liverpool replaced the struggling Torres with Peter Crouch at half-time.
And it did not take long for the substitute striker, who scored a hat-trick against Arsenal last year, to make his presence felt as his powerful drive brought a superb flying save out of Almunia.
Arsenal should have equalised when a slick move crafted a chance for Eboue and his shot cannoned back off the post straight to Fabregas, who made a hash of his effort with the goal gaping.
Instead the visitors could have found themselves two goals down. Crouch latched on to a through ball but dragged his low shot across goal.
Then Arsenal had another scare when John Arne Riise's volley from the edge of the box dipped late but found the roof of the net.
Fabregas eventually made up for his earlier miss when he got on the end of a Hleb through ball to nudge the ball beyond Reina and ensure Arsenal have scored in every game this season.
It could have been even better for Fabregas and Arsenal, but the Spaniard saw a late shot come back off the post and Nicklas Bendtner hit his first-time shot over when he had time to take a touch.
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"It was going well but we had problems with Torres. We wanted to use his pace and he then had the injury, then Xabi Alonso and we had to change.
"We now have a good record away and need to improve at home.
"But a draw at the end, because Arsenal also had chances, was probably not the worst result."
· Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger:"It was a big test today but we have shown tremendous quality.
"Overall it was a great football game, a bit of an edgy start and we were a bit nervous and punished quickly.
"But from then on it was all us and it was a question of not conceding a second and coming back. We had enough chances to win the game."
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Mascherano, Alonso (Arbeloa 68), Gerrard, Voronin (Benayoun 65), Kuyt, Torres (Crouch 46).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Babel.
Booked: Voronin, Mascherano, Carragher.
Goals: Gerrard 7.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy (Silva 74), Eboue (Bendtner 74), Fabregas, Flamini, Hleb, Rosicky (Walcott 66), Adebayor.Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Diarra.
Booked: Rosicky, Toure, Fabregas.
Goals: Fabregas 80.
Att: 44,122
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Liverpool star set for £10 million exit !!!

Aston Villa are interested in making the loan move of keeper Scott Carson permanent according to the News Of The World. The player who is on loan from fellow Premier League side Liverpool has impressed since joining the Midlands club and Martin O'Neill is said to be very keen on signing Carson full time. It is believed that Liverpool will want as much as £10 million for the player and I think that is good value for such a talent.The player who joined Liverpool back in January of 2005 from Leeds United for a fee of £1 million but since then he has struggled to get his place in the Liverpool first team ahead of Jose Pepe Reina and has been forced to go out on loan to get some first team football.The 22 year old has been tipped to break into the England starting eleven after impressing in the opening games of the Premier League season but last week he was sent off against champions Man United.Carson has really impressed during the last two season whilst playing for Villa and last season in a poor Charlton side who went on to be relegated. I'm not too sure Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will be too keen to sell such an emerging keeper because there is no doubt that if he keeps up this kind of form in recent years he will be England's number one.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Besiktas 2-1 Liverpool

Liverpool face an uphill task to qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League after falling to defeat at Besiktas.
The hosts were gifted their first when Sami Hyypia deflected in Serdar Ozkan's strike and they doubled their lead when Bobo slid the ball under Pepe Reina.
Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool hope with a flying header on 85 minutes but it was too late for Rafa Benitez's side.
The Reds are now bottom of Group A with one point from three matches.
Liverpool were put on the backfoot straight away by Besiktas, whose defender Serdar Kurtulus went close with a 25-yard effort that flew just two yards over Reina's bar.
The Reds looked like a team under pressure and it took until the second half for their reorganised midfield to show any sort of cohesiveness.
Their defence also looked nervy with the ball over the top and down the wings, and a mix-up in their own penalty area led to the Besiktas opener.
Bobo was a little terror during the match and his pull-back from the byeline, after chasing a hopeful ball, fell to the feet of Ozkan whose snap-shot from eight yards deflected off Hyypia's leg and past Reina.
In these situations the Reds would look to Gerrard, but the skipper was both looking out-of-sorts and was being well marshalled by a disciplined Besiktas side.
When he was allowed to escape he was a threat and the England international came close to giving them the equaliser, but his poke, following a classy one-two with Dirk Kuyt, brought out a good reaction save from Hakan Arikan.
Kuyt's strike partner Andriy Voronin messed up Liverpool's best chance of the first half when he failed to connect with a ball from three yards out after defender Gokhan Zan's tame clearing header.
The Premier League side pressed after the break but opportunities were few, and when one came their way, it fell to Hyypia who mistimed his volley from 10 yards.
They were made to pay for their lack of spark when the impressive Bobo was sent clear by Uzulmez before composing himself and passing his shot under the body of the on-rushing Reina.
Liverpool unleashed more men forward and finally got some reward when Gerrard chanced his arm - well, his head - and gave his side a lifeline in spectacular style.
The last few moments were desperate for Besiktas and Liverpool but the home side held out.
Besiktas: Arikan, Tandogan, Zan, Toraman, Uzulmez, Kurtulus (Avci 42), Cisse, Tello, Ozcan, Bobo (Diatta 86), Delgado (Higuain 62).Subs Not Used: Ozmen, Yozgatli, Nobre, Ricardinho.
Goals: Hyypia 13 og, Bobo 82.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia (Crouch 83), Riise, Pennant (Benayoun 59), Gerrard, Mascherano (Lucas 76), Babel, Voronin, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Alonso, Sissoko, Hobbs.
Goals: Gerrard 85.
Att: 32,500 Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Everton 1, Liverpool 2: Benitez points out peril of 'passion' to action man Gerrard

There are pool syndicates with fewer permutations on their coupons then Rafa Benitez has found on his Liverpool squad list, but still Saturday saw a first. Steven Gerrard was adjudged to be the weak link as his side chased three points.
So often the banker, there is absolutely no need to expound just what Gerrard felt like when hauled off in front of the baying Evertonians. To say it takes courage to substitute the local hero in such a full-blooded derby is an understatement. For Benitez to do it at this particular moment in Gerrard's career was one hell of a statement.
If the baffled, take-a-step back reaction from the captain told its own story, and if the words of Jamie Carragher – "what's wrong, mate, are you injured?" – on being handed the armband backed it up, then so too did the steely look on Benitez. Populism is not his game; football is. And to his mind Gerrard's form of it was more fanatical than professional.
"The idea was clear," said Benitez. "By then Everton were a man down, it was 10 against 11 and we had a player with passion. But we needed to pass and control the ball." Afterwards, Gerrard reportedly sought out the manager for his own explanation and may just have pointed out that it was his 70-yard run of "passion" that led to Dirk Kuyt's first penalty as well as the first of Everton's two red cards.
Liverpool were one down at the time and looking anything but poised after Sami Hyypia's spectacular own-goal volley. It was all seemingly set up for Gerrard, who had started to show the touches and verve that have been strangely missing of late.
Benitez, however, saw a rather bigger picture. He did so as soon as he arrived on Merseyside three years ago and witnessed this footballing alpha male trying to do everything for a team that looked over-reliant when he was on the pitch and Robin Reliant when he was off it.
With the help of a Xabi Alonso or two, Benitez made Gerrard understand the need for a more collective, cohesive effort, but has been wary of the propensity returning ever since.
Saturday was one of those afternoons, although seeing as the central pairing of Javier Mascherano and Momo Sissoko were creativity in wellies, it was little wonder that Gerrard felt obliged to do the lot by himself.
That cost him, but if Lucas, his Brazilian replacement, had failed, it might have cost Benitez even more. In the event, the 20-year-old debutant did give Liverpool a measure of composure and, indeed, it was his shot that Phil Neville felt compelled to palm off the line in injury time.
There was nothing controversial about that dismissal or, if truth be told, little about Tony Hibbert's, but no matter as nine-man Everton had plenty to moan about anyway.
David Moyes, for one, could not hold back and may have landed himself in trouble with his comments regarding Mark Clattenburg. The referee's error in not awarding Everton their own spot kick in the final seconds for Jamie Carragher's Hulk Hogan impression on Joleon Lescott verged on the scandalous as did his decision not to send off the match-winner Kuyt for a two-footed lunge on Neville.
Then there was his seemed change of mind with Hibbert, when having the yellow card in his hand before putting it back in his pocket and upgrading to red following a word from Gerrard. The Durham official later denied that he was influenced by the England international, but that would have hardly assuaged Moyes.
What if Clattenburg rang him to apologise this week, just as Rob Styles did Benitez after the Chelsea fiasco at the season's start?
"I wouldn't take his phone call after this performance" replied Moyes, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek.
"Didn't he [Clattenburg] go to Asia with Liverpool for the Asian Cup this summer?" ventured Moyes when asked if the referees favour the big four.
"They [the Liverpool players] were all going up to him and maybe he wants to be friendly with them. If he had given what was a clear-cut penalty at the end then you could have said, OK, he got a few things wrong, but to get what was a blatant penalty wrong on top of everything else is incredible. You have to ask why." Moyes can ask, but it will not get him anywhere.
Raging against injustice rarely does. Gerrard should remember that, and with Alonso and Fernando Torres set to return for Wednesday's vital Champions League match with Besiktas, perhaps he can then return to doing what he does best. Istanbul is not a bad place for a comeback.

Everton 1-2 Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt's injury-time penalty gave Liverpool a crucial Merseyside derby win against nine-man Everton.
Sami Hyypia sliced into his own goal after 37 minutes to give Everton the lead at the interval.
But Kuyt scored from the spot after 54 minutes when Tony Hibbert was sent off for hauling down Steven Gerrard as he raced clear on goal.
And Kuyt struck again in time added on, with Phil Neville also sent off for handling Lucas' goal-bound shot.
Everton were then furious with referee Mark Clattenburg, who ignored strong claims for a spot-kick in the dying seconds when Jamie Carragher clearly dragged down Joleon Lescott.
Liverpool were without groin-injury victim Fernando Torres, while Everton resisted the temptation to recall long-term absentees Tim Cahill, Thomas Gravesen and James Vaughan.
Benitez's side started better and should have taken the lead in the fourth minute when Andriy Voronin shot straight at Everton keeper Tim Howard after Hibbert's hesitation let in Yossi Benayoun.
Everton, however, quickly came to terms with Liverpool's system and Lescott was a constant threat down the left flank.
John Arne Riise had a long-range free-kick deflected just wide, but Liverpool were in danger of losing their early momentum.
Victor Anichebe had two headers off target before Everton took the lead with a freak goal eight minutes before the interval.
Alan Stubbs retrieved a corner and crossed into the area, where Hyypia inexplicably lashed the ball past his own keeper Pepe Reina with his left foot.
Liverpool needed a break to get back into the game and they got it via a penalty and a red card for Everton's Hibbert.
Gerrard led a Liverpool break with a surge into the area where he was hauled down by Hibbert.
Referee Clattenburg pointed the spot and sent Hibbert off before Kuyt sent Howard the wrong way from the spot for his first league goal of the season.
Liverpool then attempted to make their most of their numerical advantage, with Riise shooting wildly over when unmarked and then Voronin having a shot blocked by Howard from close range.
Yakubu, who had been having a quiet afternoon, almost restored Everton's lead with a stunning 30-yard drive that whistled inched wide with Reina beaten.
Benitez then sprung a surprise with 20 minutes left, sending on Brazilian youngster Lucas for Gerrard - who looked stunned to be called off.
As the game went into injury-time, Liverpool grabbed a lifeline when Neville dived to palm away Lucas' shot.
Kuyt scored, but Everton were enraged when Carragher fouled Lescott in front of referee Clattenburg, who waved away their appeals.
· Everton boss David Moyes:"Decisions happen, that's football. But in the last seconds there's the chance for it to be corrected and it would've been a result we deserved.
"We deserved that penalty and if the other penalties were more blatant than that, then I am in the wrong game.
"I seem to see football differently. If the ref doesn't see that you ask why."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"People talk about a penalty they could have had. But last season we lost here 3-0, two of their goals were fouls and nobody complained then.
"I always feel that in England, players should not be rewarded with penalties for diving.
"I felt both penalty decisions were right. And I also agree with the yellow card for Kuyt and not a red."
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Stubbs, Lescott, Arteta, Jagielka, Neville, Osman, Yakubu (McFadden 77), Anichebe (Baines 84).Subs Not Used: Wessels, Pienaar, Carsley.
Sent Off: Hibbert (53), Neville (90).
Booked: McFadden.
Goals: Hyypia 38 og.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard (Lucas 71), Mascherano, Sissoko (Pennant 88), Benayoun (Babel 68), Voronin, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Crouch.
Booked: Kuyt, Carragher.
Goals: Kuyt 54 pen, 90 pen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Rafael Benitez is hopeful Fernando Torres will be able to face Everton in the Merseyside derby on Saturday.
The Spanish striker has been receiving intensive treatment on his adductor injury this week and is now back in training. "Torres trained well on Wednesday and we will have another session on Thursday and Friday afternoon, then we will make a decision," said Benitez. "We have three players who are very close to returning and we will see how they are before I decide on the team to face Everton. "It is always a risk but I will talk to the doctor and maybe it is not such a big risk here." The Liverpool manager also revealed his team are looking forward to the derby and are eager to get their form back on track in the Premier League. "Winning a game like this can change everything and we are looking forward to the derby," added Benitez. "It's important for us to win this game. Everton are in a good position in the league and have started the season well. "We know it will be a tough and very physical game. We have confidence and the players know how much this match means to our supporters."

Xabi Alonso feeling the special derby athmosphere

LIVERPOOL will look to kickstart their campaign with victory in the Goodison derby against Everton on Saturday.
Xabi Alonso retains an outside chance of being available after returning to training following the broken metatarsal that has ruled him out since mid-September.
And the Spain midfielder yesterday hit back at talk that Liverpool’s foreign contingent do not have the same regard for the fixture as the local players.
"I don’t know how you would compare who feels what, but the foreign lads always know it’s a special game," said Alonso.
"You pick up on the atmosphere when you’re out and about, of course. Everyone on both sides can’t wait for kick-off - it’s a really big day for the city. We know how much it means to the people. They have family who might support the other team and they talk about it.
"The excitement is the same among the players. I’m looking forward to it.
"But it’s against the other team from this city, and for the fans it means a lot.
"I don’t know if it means more for the local lads than the foreign players, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be as committed as them."

Benitez: Lay off Gerrard

Rafael Benitez believes Steven Gerrard is being unfairly criticised for Liverpool's recent slump in form.
The Reds go into Saturday's Merseyside derby against Everton on the back a run of poor results.
Liverpool have won only one of their last four Premier League fixtures and Benitez is well aware that form cannot continue if his side are to mount a realistic title challenge.
Benitez admits Liverpool's recent displays - which also include a shock home UEFA Champions League defeat to Marseille - have not been good enough, but the Spaniard does not believe Gerrard's personal performances are to blame.
"I am really worried about the team over the past few games, because we are not playing at our level," Benitez told the Liverpool Echo.
"You can talk about Steven Gerrard, because he is the captain, but you can talk about the other players also.
"I was disappointed when people were talking about (Mohamed) Sissoko and (Sebastian) Leto after the Marseille game.
"So I say the team is not playing well and you cannot pick out one player. It is the same situation with Steve.
"The team is working hard so we need to improve tactically and we need to improve our confidence."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Liverpool form concerns Gerrard

Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool are performing way below expectations despite the Reds still being unbeaten in the Premier League this term.
But what boss Rafael Benitez is privately concerned about is the form of his skipper as Gerrard heads off for another international break with England.
Ever since Gerrard suffered his foot injury and then played two games in four days for England with the problem, he has not been the driving inspiration Liverpool expect.
Benitez was more than annoyed about that, but knows he can do nothing to prevent the same thing happening again.
It was only last week that Gerrard conceded he was finally playing without pain, underlining the real problem at the heart of Liverpool's recent sequence of two wins in seven games.
It was almost a whole lot worse on Sunday until Fernando Torres headed an injury-time equaliser to rob Tottenham of a deserved win at Anfield.
Two goals from Robbie Keane, answering Andriy Voronin's opener, looked to have set Spurs on the way to a victory that would surely have ended any debate about manager Martin Jol's job.
But Spurs still returned to London more than happy with their efforts, leaving Liverpool and their increasingly demanding fans wondering what has gone wrong.
Ahead of the match, Benitez had described the home Champions League defeat by Marseille last week as "unacceptable". Gerrard agreed that Liverpool had "lost their sparkle".
And after another display riddled with errors that left Benitez stunned, there was certainly no extra glitz around Anfield.
Gerrard said: "We have not been ourselves of late, that's true. The results have not been good and the performances could have been better.
"We are going through a dip in form which all top teams do at some stage and we just have to make sure we play our way through it. We are not performing to the standards we can do, but that will change.
"I am asking the fans to trust me when I say there is no crisis here. We have fantastic players and a world-class manager and we will get things right again, there is no doubt about that.
"We have now got an international break which will give Rafa the chance to look at things and work with the players who are staying behind.
"For those of us going away, we have to get the jobs done with our countries and then come back ready for a massive match at Everton.
"If we can turn in a performance in the derby and win that game then things will be looking better again. That is what we will be aiming for."
Benitez looked as angry and bemused as is possible as he sifted through the debris of a third home league draw of the campaign, six points lost that would see them ahead of leaders Arsenal.
The Anfield boss said: "We were good in the first half, creating chances and controlling the game. But after we conceded near the break and then again soon after, it changed everything.
"We did not control the game and we did not create chances. But we did see character in that second half to get a very late equaliser.
"The two goals we conceded were very similar, they were not normal, not the sort of goals that we concede, that is why they are so difficult to explain.
"It is very difficult also to explain why we were much better than Spurs in the first half and then in the second period we could not handle the pressure on us.
"It was unbelievable that we could not finish the game off. We needed character, experience and leaders. Leaders need to control the situation and manage the pressure."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham

Fernando Torres' injury-time header rescued a draw for Liverpool.
Liverpool went ahead after Spurs goalkeeper Paul Robinson spilt Steven Gerrard's free-kick and Andriy Voronin pounced to snaffle the rebound.
But Keane's goals at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second changed the game's course.
On both occasions Dimitar Berbatov's headers unsettled Liverpool and Keane's eye for goal proved deadly, but Torres' downward header rescued the home side.
Liverpool might have been three goals up before Keane got to work but Gerrard hit the post and Voronin missed a reasonable chance.
Manager Rafael Benitez made five changes for this game, with Peter Crouch deemed not even worthy of a place on the Liverpool bench.
Voronin and Torres might have scored for Liverpool but this was a performance that will raise further question marks about Benitez's rotational policy.
Overall it was a disjointed performance from Liverpool and Spurs were unlucky not to leave with their first away win of the season.
Prior to Sunday's game, Spurs had won just one league match and Jol's side got off to the worst possible start.
Robinson is having a difficult time of it at the moment - he was at fault for three of Aston Villa's goals in the 4-4 draw on Monday - and he will wince if he looks at the video replays of Voronin's goal.
True, Gerrard's free-kick took a deflection, but Robinson should have held his England colleague's effort.
Instead the ball squirmed out of his hands and Voronin had the simplest of tasks to put Liverpool ahead.
Later in the game Robinson spilled a Steve Finnan shot, though this time he was rescued by Michael Dawson.
With 13 minutes remaining Robinson did better in dealing with a Javier Mascherano shot, getting down quickly to make a good save.
Another Mascherano effort - this time from distance - had Robinson worried, but the ball faded away from the goal at the last moment.
Had Liverpool taken their chances in the first half Benitez's side might not have had such a worrying afternoon.
On the half-hour Gerrard was unlucky not to score when his curling free-kick cannoned back off the post.
A sweeping move involving Gerrard, Torres and Voronin dissected the Spurs defence but the Ukraine forward elected to pass rather than shoot and the opportunity to score passed.
In first-half stoppage time Liverpool were made to rue those missed chances when Berbatov's flicked header released Keane, who clipped the ball past Jose Reina.
Sami Hyypia was badly at fault, barely managing a challenge on Berbatov.
The Spurs strikers were quickly back to work at the start of the second half when Berbatov flicked on again and Keane acrobatically volleyed past Reina.
But Torres proved equally adept in the air and when Finnan crossed from the right, the Spaniard headed the ball past Robinson to give Liverpool the draw.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"We made two bad mistakes.
"I'm disappointed. We were controlling the game and we didn't take our chances - you can't explain that.
"The second goal was especially bad - we need to learn for the future as the small details change games."
· Tottenham manager Martin Jol:"I feel rotten about the result - we gave them a big fright.
"If you attack the spaces behind them you can cause Liverpool problems.
"We're in the last 16 of the Carling Cup and in the group stages of the Uefa Cup and now we have to start winning games in the Premier League.
"There is a lot to come from this team, but we must start climbing the table."

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa (Babel 63), Pennant (Kuyt 69), Mascherano, Gerrard, Riise, Voronin (Benayoun 77), Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Lucas.
Goals: Voronin 12, Torres 90.
Tottenham: Robinson, Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Lee, Tainio (Malbranque 75), Jenas, Zokora, Bale, Keane, Berbatov.Subs Not Used: Cerny, Defoe, Huddlestone, Gardner.
Booked: Dawson.
Goals: Keane 45, 47.
Att: 43,986.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Liverpool 0-1 Marseille

Mathieu Valbuena scored a brilliant goal as Marseille beat an out-of-sorts Liverpool in the Champions League.
Valbuena's 20-yard strike after 77 minutes left Pepe Reina stranded and clipped the woodwork on its way in.
Mamadou Niang, who had several shots saved, was harshly flagged offside in a move that ended with Karim Ziani putting the ball in the net.
A Yossi Benayoun header was deflected wide and Fernando Torres hit the post as Liverpool rallied after conceding.
But it was a performance that was woefully below the required standard by Liverpool, who rarely threatened until the final minutes of the match.
Rafael Benitez's side now have one point from their first two Champions League group games after their draw in Porto - and the manager has some serious issues to address.
But it was a brilliant start to Eric Gerets' career as Marseille coach, with his team casting aside their poor league form to win their second successive game of the Champions League group stage.
It might have been different had Liverpool opened the scoring after three minutes but Torres wasted an inviting position with a heavy first touch that allowed Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda to clear the danger.
Marseille soon started to work the ball across the wet, crisp surface with a style and confidence that belied their position of 17th in the French league.
Karim Ziani advanced down the right after Fabio Aurelio lost possession and played a slide-rule pass that Niang struck low and hard from a tight angle, forcing Reina to make a decent save.
Laurent Bonnart was later allowed far too much time to deliver a cross that Cana headed over the crossbar, while the Reds needed the aid of an unwarranted offside flag after 34 minutes to remain on level terms.
Liverpool, in contrast, lacked fluency and cohesion after Benitez made five changes from the team that defeated Wigan in the Premier League on Saturday.
There was little sign of 'the real Steven Gerrard' that Benitez wanted to see, while the atmosphere inside Anfield was unusually subdued.
Niang forced Reina into action after the break with a strike from 20 yards and then with a well-struck low free-kick.
Gerrard tried to lift his team with a long-range effort but he was wide of Mandanda's goal.
Andriy Voronin replaced Aurelio and Drik Kuyt came on for Peter Crouch as Benitez continued to search for the winning formula but it was the French side who continued to show greater flair and incision in attack.
And they were rewarded when Marseille worked the ball to Valbuena after Mohamed Sissoko was caught in possession.
The French midfielder had time to pick his spot and did so brilliantly, curling the bar into the top corner.
Sami Hyypia headed wide as Liverpool rallied, while Benayoun should have done better with a far-post header that was deflected wide.
Mandanda made a good smothering save but the ball broke free, however Torres' strike hit the post as Liverpool's late rally failed to produce an equaliser.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on whether his team's rotation policy was to blame for the defeat:"You can talk about team selection, and we have been talking about big names.
"But those big names did not play well from the start.
"It was a poor game for us, we did not play well and we did not make many chances. It was clearly not our day.
"To get through in this competition you need wins. Draws are not enough.
"We now know that we must win our next match away to Besiktas."
· Marseille manager Eric Gerets:"We were not expected to win this one, but we felt if we took the initiative and tried to attack, it would be a good tactic.
"We tried to get men forward and that is what brought us this victory."
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio (Voronin 70), Benayoun, Gerrard, Sissoko, Leto (Riise 52), Torres, Crouch (Kuyt 75).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Arbeloa, Babel, Mascherano.
Booked: Gerrard, Sissoko, Carragher.
Marseille: Mandanda, Bonnart, Rodriguez, Givet, Taiwo, Cana, Cheyrou, Valbuena (Oruma 83), Ziani, Zenden (Arrache 87), Niang (Cisse 70).Subs Not Used: Hamel, Zubar, M'Bami, Moussilou.
Goals: Valbuena 77.
Att: 41,355 Ref: Konrad Plautz (Austria).