Crouch with a spectacular goal. (Photo: Reuters)
happy with Reds
By Carla Hilton - Sky Sports
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is hoping for a successful
year with the Reds after they got the New Year off to a
winning start against Bolton.
The Reds made it six wins from seven Premiership matches
since the start of December with the 3-0 win over the
Wanderers on New Year's Day at Anfield.
In that period, Liverpool have vastly improved from a side
who couldn't find the net earlier in the season, notching 17
goals and conceding just one.
Benitez hopes his side's current vein of form remains,
saying: "As a manager of a team that has a good balance
between attack and defence, I am very happy."
The Spaniard does however admit to not being happy with the
nine points from a possible 12 his side picked up over the
festive period, and confessed his disappointment with the
defeat to Blackburn on Boxing Day.
"We deserved to win against Blackburn. We had a lot of
chances and if we had scored the first goal maybe it would
have been another thing," he added.
"It is a pity now but you cannot change it. The only thing
you can do is find positives and that is the consistency of
the team, the chances we are creating, the good football we
are playing and also the clean sheets."
Benitez has been linked with moves for a number of players
during the transfer window, including West Ham midfielder
Javier Mascherano and Valencia striker David Villa.
But he says he is happy with his current squad and feel's
they are more than capable of keeping their current stature
in the Premiership.
"I read every day (about) three or four new names. I think
it is important to use the squad," said Benitez.
"Bolo Zenden (out since late November after a knee
operation) will be back in maybe two weeks and then we can
manage with all the players we have.
Benitez refused to comment on the chances of catching
second-place Chelsea who sit eight points ahead of the Reds
following a goalless draw with Villa on Tuesday.
"I think it will be a good month for us. But we are not
looking at the table," said Benitez. "We are looking at the
FA Cup (against Arsenal), our next game.
"If you start counting your chickens then, at the end, you
will have problems.
"There are a number of teams that are contenders for
Champions League places: Arsenal, Portsmouth, Bolton,
Tottenham - all of them can be there.
"It is not easy to talk about this now because we have a
of the same Jermaine
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Jermaine Pennant has shown just what a good player he can
be for Liverpool when he is full of confidence and bang on
top of his game.
But now he has got to forget all about the way he played
against Bolton and go out and do it all over again. And then
Liverpool wanted and needed width to unlock Bolton and
Pennant provided it to great effect. He played a leading
part in both Crouch and Gerrard's goals and looked a threat
all afternoon. Given some of the criticism he has had this
season, it was good to see him showing us exactly why Rafa
Benitez put his faith in him and brought him to Anfield.
But Pennant will realise he has set a new standard for
himself now, one that he must reach time and again at a club
the size of Liverpool's.
If he slips below this level of performance in the next game
or the others that follow, then the doubters will surely be
The good news is that in the next week Pennant has every
incentive he could wish for to prove those critics wrong.
Because with Arsenal visiting twice in four days for
Saturday's FA Cup clash and then the Carling Cup quarter
final replay next Tuesday, he can show Arsene Wenger that he
was wrong to let him leave Highbury.
Not many players get a second chance at the big time but
that is exactly what Pennant has got now, having been
brought to Anfield from Birmingham.
He showed against Bolton that he can be a major attacking
force. But you just cannot play a couple of good games and
then a couple of poor ones at Liverpool and expect to get
away with it.
Of couse it doesn't matter who the opposition are, any
player must perform to their best week in, week out.
But there's no denying there is always an extra bit of spice
to things when you come up against your old club, and he
should get every chance now to make Wenger think again.
The two cup games could be quite different, with one or two
players rested for the Carling Cup match.
But if Liverpool can ruffle Arsenal's feathers the ways
teams like Sheffield United, Fulham and West Ham have done,
then with home advantage I fancy us for both ties.
Okay when Arsenal are allowed time and space they are
possibly the most attractive team in the Premiership, but
that is what Liverpool denied Bolton in a physical battle in
the first half and they were then were able to impose
themselves on the game.
If the Reds keep up this new found strength of purpose and
belief they have found, then Pennant in particular will have
every chance to shine on the right flank more often.
It's a chance he must now take.
me to leave
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Peter Crouch celebrated his return to goalscoring form by
insisting he has no intention of quitting Anfield this
month, nor for the foreseeable future.
The striker continues to be linked with a £12m exit, even
though manager Rafa Benitez has repeated Crouch is not
available for transfer.
Benitez believes Crouch's advisors are responsible for the
recent speculation, which intensified when the forward was
left out of recent fixtures.
Crouch responded in the right way with the stunning opener
in yesterday's 3-0 victory over Bolton. The 25-year-old now
says he hopes to remain at Anfield.
"I've heard all the speculation and all I can say is I'm
happy here and love playing for the club," said Crouch.
"It's a fantastic club, all the games are massive and I
wouldn't want to leave. I hope I've shown when I do play I
always give 100 per cent. I see my future here and as long
as the manager doesn't want me to go, I won't be going.
"I've had challenges throughout my career and this is
another one. There are a lot of players who get rotated and
I'm not the only one.
"When you get a chance, you've got to take it. Hopefully
I've given the manager something to think about. We all need
to impress, not just those who are in and out.
"It can get frustrating when you want to play every game and
do your best for the club, but all you can do is keep
"I know the manager has got no problem with me. Everyone who
knows me knows my attitude won't change. I've always worked
hard and given my all, and that's always going to be the
Crouch's strike had echoes of an equally spectacular
Champions League effort earlier this season.
"I was thinking about the Galatasaray goal when I struck it
and it was nice to prove that was no fluke," he said.
"It was a good ball in and it was an instinctive strike.
That's just what we needed, because the game opened up then
to allow us to get three.
"We've got ourselves back in a good position again. There
are some difficult games to come, but there's a lot to play
for and it's up to us what we get out of the season."
Crouch sticks it to the critics
By Ian Doyle - Daily Post
When an ecstatic Peter Crouch wheeled away with
atwo-fingered salute to the Kop yesterday, the temptation
must have been to slowly turn his hand around and direct it
towards his critics.
The Liverpool striker has endured a festive period of
speculation and recrimination following a performance during
the Boxing Day defeat at Blackburn Rovers that prompted
Rafael Benitez to issue a warning to the underachieving
Crouch then had to watch from the bench as Liverpool bounced
back with victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and
suffered the indignity of again being linked with a move to
So it was with understandable delight that the striker
celebrated the magnificent scissor-kick that flashed beyond
Juusi Jaaskelainen and sent Liverpool on their way to a
deserved victory over Bolton Wanderers yesterday.
Crouch’s gesture, rather than a response to his doubters,
signified his second such strike in front of the Anfield
faithful this season following his similarly spectacular
effort against Galatasaray in the Champions League in
Typical, then, that Crouch should subsequently spurn two far
more presentable openings with his head, echoing his Ewood
Park errors seven days previously and underlining his aerial
ability does not match his prowess on the ground. New year,
It didn’t prove costly yesterday, however, as his wonder
goal helped spark a vastly improved second-half Liverpool
display that Bolton manager Sam Allardyce later admitted the
visitors could not live with.
Steven Gerrard celebrated royal recognition with a
well-taken volley moments later before Dirk Kuyt capped a
convincing victory by netting a richly-deserved third goal
with eight minutes remaining.
After the avoidable defeat to Blackburn, Benitez’s side have
now beaten two of their main rivals for a Champions League
place in the space of three days and moved back into third
place in the Premiership.
This win extended their unbeaten home league record to 27
games – their best sequence since 1981 – and was a sixth
triumph in their last seven Premiership games, a ninth clean
sheet in 10 top-flight outings.
Bolton, who began the game ahead of Liverpool and were
chasing a club record sixth successive Premiership win, have
long aggravated Benitez with their no-nonsense tactics and
The Spaniard had urged referee Graham Poll to be wise to the
ways of Allardyce’s men, but a jaded Bolton struggled to
muster anything as Liverpool’s willingness to go toe-to-toe
with the visitors during a first-half war of attrition
provided the platform for victory.
The home defence, with the recalled Sami Hyypia impressive,
protected Pepe Reina’s goal to such an extent Bolton failed
to register a single shot on target all afternoon.
But it was on the flanks where Liverpool truly prospered,
Jermaine Pennant, Mark Gonzalez and later Luis Garcia
effective as they busied the visiting full-backs and negated
the threat out wide of Kevin Davies and El Hadji Diouf.
Pennant was the standout of the three, enjoying easily his
best game in a Liverpool shirt by contributing to the
opening two goals, both of which came from the right. This
was much more like the player on which Benitez splashed out
£6.7million six months ago – will 2007 be the year the
winger realises his undoubted potential?
In contrast, Diouf, on his first playing return to Anfield
since his departure two years, was booed throughout but
offended only the fans to whom he blew a kiss after winning
a free-kick, while Nicolas Anelka, another ex-Liverpool
player, was similarly subdued.
Benitez’s views on the Christmas period are well known, and
Bolton’s lacklustre showing provided weight to the argument
of festive over-exertion.
While the Spaniard could rotate his squad – making four
changes from the team that won at Tottenham – Bolton’s lack
of strength in depth meant yesterday was a fourth game in 10
days for most of their players. It showed during a final
quarter in which Liverpool should have increased their
Watching Bolton is usually as attractive a proposition as a
New Year’s Day morning fry-up, and it said much about the
standard of the fare during the first 45 minutes that the
loudest cheer from the crowd before half-time came when
Ricardo Gardner miscontrolled the ball.
What decent football was on show came from the home side and
they created the better chances, Gerrard shooting wide from
range and Kuyt seeing a goalbound effort blocked early on,
before a 40-yard run from the Dutchman was halted by a
cynical challenge by Tal Ben Haim that earned the Israeli a
The closest Liverpool came to shaking everyone out of their
New Year hangovers arrived on 28 minutes when Steve Finnan,
who struck his own crossbar at White Hart Lane on Saturday,
rattled the woodwork at the right end this time as his
20-yard shot was palmed on to the frame of the goal by
Bolton keeper Jaaskelainen.
Soon after, a counter-attack from John Arne Riise eventually
ended with Xabi Alonso dragging narrowly wide after Kuyt and
Pennant declined the invitation to shoot, and Crouch nodded
a decent Finnan cross off target.
After such a poor first half, Liverpool stepped up the pace
after the break and settled the outcome with two goals in as
many minutes just past the hour.
Both were Christmas crackers. Good foraging by Kuyt released
Pennant down the right, and his cross floated perfectly for
Crouch on the penalty spot to swivel his long frame and
power a fantastic scissors-kick beyond Jaaskelainen. The
striker – who amazingly played a full 90 minutes in the
Premiership for only the second time this season yesterday –
was dropped after his wonder goal against Galatasaray
earlier this season, and might well fear the worst ahead of
Saturday’s FA Cup visit of Arsenal with Craig Bellamy vying
for a return after missing out yesterday through injury.
Eighty-three seconds later, Kuyt and Pennant combined again
for the Dutchman to this time cross for the incoming Gerrard
to rattle a well-taken volley into the top corner from 16
After that, it was a matter of how many as Bolton wilted.
Crouch fired another acrobatic effort at Jaaskelainen and
wastefully headed over Finnan’s fine cross before Kuyt
bludgeoned his way beyond three defenders and released a
drive that was turned over by Jaaskelainen, who pulled off a
great save to palm clear Hyypia’s header from the resultant
Kuyt, though, was not to be denied and got his reward seven
minutes from time, running on to Garcia’s throughball and
holding off Gardner before tucking cleverly into the bottom
corner from a tight angle.
There was still time for Crouch to illustrate heading is not
his forte by nodding a Finnan cross weakly at Jaaskelainen
when completely unmarked.
But it could not detract from what was a happy new year for
Liverpool and Crouch in particular.
flies flag for Pennant and Gonzalez
Rafael Benitez hailed the impact of wingers Jermaine
Pennant and Mark Gonzalez after Liverpool's 3-0 victory over
Bolton on New Year's Day.
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch grabbed the headlines with a
spectacular overhead kick but Benitez felt his two wide men
were crucial figures.
After a frustrating first half Crouch broke the deadlock
with a superb overhead kick - not dissimilar to the one he
scored against Galatasaray in the Champions League - in the
Steven Gerrard volleyed home 83 seconds later finally to end
Bolton's resistance while Dirk Kuyt added a third seven
minutes from time.
Right winger Pennant had a hand in the first two goals,
crossing for Crouch and then playing in Kuyt who centred for
his captain to score from 12 yards.
Chile international Gonzalez also posed a threat on the
other flank and Benitez was quick to recognise the
contribution of his wingers.
"We knew it could be a difficult game. In the first half we
had chances but in the second half it was clear both teams
were tired," said the Spaniard.
"Today Pennant and Gonzalez were pretty important players,
running behind defenders.
"We knew Gerrard and Xabi (Alonso) could be tired so the
wingers and the strikers were the key in keeping the other
"We had, on both sides, players with ability and pace and
with them going forward all the time their defenders cannot
go forward if you know the winger is a threat."
With the closest thing to a first-half goal being Steve
Finnan's shot which was tipped on to the crossbar by Jussi
Jaaskelainen it appeared Liverpool were set for more
frustration after the interval.
However, Crouch's brilliant volley provided the cushion they
needed and when Gerrard followed it in pretty soon
afterwards the result was virtually assured.
Benitez was impressed with all three strikes, which lifted
Liverpool above their opponents into third and ensured the
Reds ended the packed festive programme with nine points
from four matches.
"The goals were amazing. The first one was the most
important, the second was a very good goal and the third,
for a player working as hard as Kuyt, you must be pleased
for him," he said.
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Bolton chief Sam Allardyce felt his side ran out of steam
following the busy festive period against Liverpool.
The Reds romped to an impressive 3-0 win at Anfield to
leapfrog Bolton into third spot in the table.
Allardyce admitted his side were not at the races and he
felt fatigue played a major part in their defeat.
"I could smell it coming to be honest. It was a game too
many from our point of view," said Allardyce.
"I don't think we've got anything like the sort of energy
that was needed to continue to keep Liverpool out and
finally we cracked in the end.
"But the quality of the first two goals you have to admire -
even though we could have done better in the build-ups in
terms of stopping the crosses.
"The two finishes from Crouch and Gerrard were first class
and came within such a short period of time there was no way
back for us.
"In possession we never posed any threat and because of that
they finally wore us down."
"Once we scored the first goal we had more space and more
possibilities and also some players playing at a very good
"I am really pleased with the team because the concentration
of the team was fantastic. I think they did a very good
with start to new year
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admitted a goal and a
3-0 victory at home to Bolton was "the perfect start" to
A stunning Peter Crouch overhead kick, Gerrard's volley and
a late Dirk Kuyt strike gave Liverpool the win at Anfield
and lifted them into third place in the Premiership.
Gerrard, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours
List, told Sky Sports 1: "It was the perfect start: a home
win, three points and a clean sheet and we played some
really good football against a decent side.
"It's been a great week for me personally but personal
things are put to one side when you go onto the pitch.
"It was a great team performance and there should be a
special mention for Jermaine Pennant. He's been criticised
this season but today he was fantastic, his crossing from
the right was superb.
"My goal was really nice. I was really quiet second half but
I was pleased with the goal."
Man of the match Kuyt added: "It's a good beginning to
"We're now third in the table, and for us it's very
important just to keep going.
"Just winning the home games is the most important thing.
It's a tough league and a long race so we'll see."
Reds boss Rafael Benitez echoed his skipper's sentiments. "I
think all the supporters must be really happy. We started
the year really well; it's a fantastic start to 2007.
"We were waiting for a physical game and in the first half,
it was more difficult. In the second half, we scored the
goals and opened the game, it was very good."
Asked about referee Graham Poll's performance - Benitez
urged officials to monitor Bolton's tactics more closely -
he added: "If it's the same for everybody, perfect."
Reds rock Bolton
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Liverpool got the New Year off to a flying start with an
impressive 3-0 win over Bolton at Anfield.
Two superb second half goals from Peter Crouch and Steven
Gerrard, and Dirk Kuyt's late strike, gave Rafa Benitez's
men all three points against a disappointing Bolton side.
The win helps Liverpool leapfrog Bolton into third spot in
the table and ends Bolton's good run of form.
Liverpool looked to impose themselves on Bolton from the off
and Gerrard had the first shot in anger after just two
minutes with a shot from the edge of the area which flew
wide of the target.
Bolton looked happy to sit back and defend early on, but
they almost got through on 14 minutes when Nicky Hunt broke
free down the right only for Jamie Carragher to clear his
cross from reaching Nicolas Anelka.
Tal Ben Haim was booked by referee Graham Poll on 20 minutes
for hauling down Kuyt in full flow as the Dutchman tried to
lead a Liverpool counter attack.
Liverpool came close to breaking the deadlock on 28 minutes
when Steve Finnan worked a one-two with Jermaine Pennant on
the edge of the box and the Republic of Ireland
international fired in a rasping shot which Jussi
Jaaskelainen superbly tipped onto and over the crossbar.
The home side continued to call the tune and Gerrard tried
his luck from long-range on 31 minutes, but his effort flew
A minute later Xabi Alonso missed a good opening when
Pennant teed up the Spaniard on the edge of the box and the
midfield schemer clipped his shot just wide of the far post.
Mark Gonzalez wasted a shooting opportunity on 33 minutes
when he found space on the edge of the box, but the Chilean
dragged his right-footed shot horribly wide.
Crouch had a half chance soon after when he glanced Finnan's
inviting cross wide of the target.
John Arne Riise had the last noteworthy shot of the first
half when he blazed a half volley from the edge of the box
over the top as Bolton restricted Liverpool to efforts from
Liverpool picked up where they left off at the start of the
second half and Gonzalez had their first chance after the
restart when he headed Pennant's cross over the top.
Ivan Campo was the next man to go in the book when he was
cautioned for a blatant push on Pennant.
Liverpool made the breakthrough they deserved on 61 minutes
with a brilliant overhead kick from Crouch.
Pennant sent over a cross from the right and Crouch showed
superb agility to volley his effort into the bottom corner
past Jaaskelainen in what was a carbon copy of his goal
against Galatasaray earlier in the season also down at The
Two minutes later Liverpool doubled their lead as Gerrard
celebrated his recent MBE with another classy goal.
Kuyt combined with Pennant down the right and the Dutchman
picked out Gerrard arriving in the box with his cross and
the Liverpool skipper smashed an unstoppable volley into the
top corner to spark wild celebrations among the home side.
Bolton defender Abdoulaye Faye was lucky not to be sent off
on 65 minutes when after being booked for fouling Crouch he
kicked away the ball in frustration, but Poll decided to
only warn the Senegal international rather than hand him a
second yellow card.
Crouch had a great opening on 70 minutes when Finnan picked
him out inside the box, but the giant striker drove his shot
straight down the throat of Jaaskelainen.
Bolton tried to respond and substitute Ricardo Vaz Te saw
his corner kicked away from right in front of the near post
by Pennant and from the following corner Faye headed over
the top when well placed.
Crouch really should have added a third on 76 minutes when
Pennant's cross found him unmarked inside the box, but the
striker wastefully headed the ball over the crossbar.
Kuyt was denied a goal ten minutes from time with a powerful
run and shot which Jaaskelainen tipped over the crossbar.
From the resulting corner Jaaskelainen produced a flying
save to deny his fellow Finn Sami Hyypia a goal from his
Kuyt got the goal his performance deserved on 83 minutes
when substitute Luis Garcia played him in on goal and the
Dutchman held off Ricardo Gardner before slotting his shot
into the bottom corner past Jaaskelainen.
Crouch should have grabbed a fourth in the dying seconds
when Finnan again picked him out inside the box, but with
only Jaaskelainen to beat he headed straight at the keeper.