Rafael Benitez believes Steven Gerrard's willingness
to play on the right of midfield has made Liverpool a
Gerrard is still battling to hold down a role at the
centre of England's midfield in a partnership with Frank
Lampard but he has been key to a significant shift in
the Liverpool manager's system and tactics in recent
It is unlikely the 25-year-old would have been
particularly enamoured with being moved to the right of
midfield to accommodate Xabi Alonso and Mohamed Sissoko
but Benitez's gratitude to his skipper is clear.
Following the impressive 3-0 win over Anderlecht in the
Champions League at Anfield, the Reds boss said: "Steve
is happy there, he understands the tactics and he is
always thinking about the benefits to the team.
"He knows it is important for us to have this balance
and okay, it will be another possibility for me to
There was not a hint of complaint from Gerrard after a
victory which puts Liverpool top of Group G and just
needing to avoid defeat against Real Betis at Anfield in
three weeks' time to reach the last 16.
Gerrard said: "We looked very good going forward, we
scored goals and we were pleased with the outcome."
Benitez's main problem this season has been getting all
his top creative players to work together as well as
finding balance and width to his stuttering side.
His search for an effective wide right midfielder had
proved fruitless until he turned to the England
The fall-out from the defeats at Fulham and Crystal
Palace has seen Benitez switch to a fluid 4-4-2, with
Gerrard filling the gaping hole on the right where he
has been encouraged to interchange with Luis Garcia on
the left and for both players to move inside to attack.
Benitez said: "With Steve on the right side he has a lot
of freedom, we then have more options there.
"We can also play Sissoko and Alonso together in the
middle and it means we are able to regain a lot of
possession and attack well
"While with Luis Garcia on the left we have a winger
that allows us to play two strikers, attacking players
behind the front men and a better balance.
"Steve and Luis change their positions many times,
swapping and moving inside, and that makes it more
difficult to control them. Both can play 'between the
lines' and wide. Both can shoot and when we see Luis
scoring goals like that (against Anderlecht) it means
both can head the ball too.
"It is also important to us to have all these players
with quality together. Steve is a good player and to be
able to have him playing with Alonso, Luis Garcia and
two strikers (means) it is a more offensive team."
For now, Benitez seems to have put on ice the 4-2-3-1
formation he has been trying to instil into Liverpool.
Playing alongside a second striker has also helped Peter
Crouch, although he is still striving for that first
goal. With more crosses arriving in the box, Crouch was
better than of late although he is still not the
goalscorer Liverpool want.
Benitez hinted he is unlikely to tinker much with a
winning side at Aston Villa on Saturday despite the fact
the side he put out, with Crouch replacing Djibril Cisse
up front, was the 42nd successive time he has changed a
The Spaniard said: "We played well against West Ham at
the weekend, scored two goals, and I decided to just
change the one player, Crouch for Cisse.
"Whether we keep doing it in the league, I don't know
for sure. It depends on whether players are tired. But
my idea is that if the team is playing well then I will
retain most parts of it."
Liverpool must wait until November 23 for the chance to
complete the qualification task against Betis, while
praying there are no shocks to leave them needing to get
something from the final match at Chelsea on
Chelsea would love to gain revenge for last season by
eliminating the holders at Stamford Bridge but Benitez
desperately wants to avoid that eventuality in west
He said: "It would have been nice to relax with us
qualified, because I was waiting for a Chelsea victory
against Betis. It hasn't happened and things will be
more difficult but we do have the advantage over
everyone else in the group.
"We are in a very good position. People were saying it
was a very difficult group, but we have shown we can
cope with it and the fact Betis have shown themselves to
be a very good side underlines how well we played to win
there in our first match.
"There is still work to do with another game with Real
"We must be careful because they are a good, attacking
away side with fine strikers with pace.
"They are quick and play very good counter-attack, so we
must be aware of our job and know we cannot take
anything for certain."
is a class act
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Jamie Carragher is tipping Fernando Morientes to
revitalise his Anfield career after watching the striker
grab a morale boosting goal in last night's win over
Morientes' lean streak came to an end with a stunning
opener in the 3-0 victory over the Belgians.
And Carragher hopes the strike signals a fresh start for
"There are some players who sign for top clubs and you
watch them and wonder if they're good enough to make it,
but that's never been the case with Morientes at
Liverpool," said Carragher.
"He's a class act and you can see what skill and quality
he has. We see how good his touch is in training every
day and it's just been a case of him taking it into the
"The big question has been whether he can adapt to
English football, but the real reason it's not happened
sooner is really down to bad luck with injuries, as far
as I'm concerned.
"I think a lot of the things which have been said about
Morientes have been unfair because his biggest problem
has been those injuries.
"It's not true to say he hasn't done anything. Last
season he scored some cracking goals, including one
against Charlton, and his first half performance in the
Merseyside derby helped us win the game.
"The signs have been there before he can adapt to
English football, but every time he's looked sharp he's
picked up a knock. The key for him is to get a run of
games under his belt and then he'd make a massive
Morientes picked up another knock which forced his early
departure last night, but Carragher is hoping the
forward will now find some momentum.
Carragher added: "His record at the top level is
exceptional, but he's never been what you'd call an
out-and-out goalscorer like Michael Owen or Robbie
"He's a more all-round player who likes to play off
defenders, so expecting him to tumble in lot of goals
every week wasn't realistic.
"If he can get a run of games going I'm sure he'll score
plenty and the goal he scored last night will do his
confidence the world of good.
"He's probably put the most difficult chance of all
away, but now he's got one, hopefully a few more aren't
Liverpool's victory last night means they only need a
point against Real Betis in their next fixture to
qualify for the knockout stage.
Just the tonic
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
The victory over Anderlecht could be just the tonic
Liverpool need after their early season difficulties
putting goals on the scoreboard.
Anderlecht weren't a very good side but European ties
can always be tricky these days and the Reds put three
good goals past them to safely put themselves top of the
The first goal was the most important. With half an hour
gone the Belgians were beginning to believe they might
keep Liverpool at bay.
It was a really sweet strike from Morientes and just as
important for him personally as it was for the team at
He's been under the microscope recently for failing to
really get his Anfield career going since his switch
from Real Madrid last season. He gave his all last
Saturday against West Ham - which the fans appreciated -
but still didn't get the goal he wanted.
Last night he put that right and you could see from his
celebrations how much it meant to him and the rest of
the team, who are clearly right behind him and full of
belief he has the desire and talent to be a big hit at
I wish I could say the same for Peter Crouch, but
unfortunately I now have serious doubts that the big
fella will ever prove his doubters wrong.
He got in decent enough positions early on last night
but failed to hit the target, let alone hit the net. As
the game progressed he looked less and less likely to
score and at times the touch which he seemed to display
when he first came also seemed to desert him.
Every Liverpool supporter - unlike the minority of
England fans who boo him - wants Crouch to do well. To
their credit, the Kop are giving him their backing, and
last night you could sense the desire to see him succeed
and get on the scoresheet.
But encouragement from the fans and endeavour from a
player cannot count for anything if the quality needed
to play up front for a club of Liverpool's stature
simply isn't there in the first place.
The fear now is the longer he goes without a goal, the
more his confidence will drain and he will struggle even
It's a shame because two of the three main strikers at
Anfield did get on the scoresheet last night when the
fans were desperately willing all of them to score.
Crouch, again, failed the test on the big stage. And he
is starting to run out of time to repay the faith
Benitez has put in him.
Everyone was baffled by the red card shown to Jestrovic
But if he said what it seems he did then top marks to
the referee for spotting it and acting without a second
It's taken years to drive out the sort of racist abuse
which was commonplace around the game when I played.
And it's clear there are some players and supporters,
particuarly those from eastern Europe, who simply
haven't learned the lesson.
This was a good a way as anyway of teaching it.
Uefa to probe
Sissoko 'race slur'
BBC Sport Online
Uefa will probe Anderlecht substitute Nenad Jestrovic
for alleged racial abuse of Liverpool's Mohamed Sissoko
in Tuesday's Champions League tie.
Jestrovic claimed Sissoko swore at him but it was the
Serbian's comments which saw him immediately shown the
red card by referee Kim Milton Nielsen.
Nielsen's report is now being studied by Uefa, which
confirmed it will begin an inquiry into the alleged
Jestrovic denies racial abuse saying "I can't understand
why I was sent off."
The Anderlecht striker, who had only been on the pitch
for five minutes, added, "I approached the referee after
the game and he said it was for an obscenity."
Anderlecht coach Frank Vercauteren said he could not
condone Jestrovic if it was proven he had racially
But he would not take any further action against his
player until he knew the full details of Nielsen's
"If it was racial abuse, I cannot condone that," said
"The other player should also have been sent off as
well. He said something similar.
"These things should not be said, but I do not intend to
punish my player further."
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez said: "I have not spoken
to Sissoko about what happened so I do not know what was
Uefa will now begin their inquiry which could take up to
15 days to reach a conclusion.
Rafa's delight for Fernando
By Rob Lancaster - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was delighted to see
Fernando Morientes get on the scoresheet in The Reds 3-0
win over Anderlecht.
The former Real Madrid frontman grabbed the first of the
hosts' goals at Anfield, as they moved top of Group G in
the UEFA Champions League with their third win in four
With Chelsea slipping up away at Real Betis, Liverpool
sit three points clear in the race to reach the knockout
stages of the competition, although Benitez insists he
is taking nothing for granted.
"I am delighted with the team," said the Spaniard. "We
have three more points and a lot of confidence.
"They played well and scored three good goals and one
came from (Fernando) Morientes, which is important for
him as well as us.
"We still need to play Betis, and I know they are very
good away from home.
"They have very quick strikers and we need to be very
aware of what is needed."
He added: "If we win, we will have qualified, but I do
not want to say yet that we are there."
Liverpool show class in comfortable win
Liverpool at last produced a performance in keeping
with their status as European champions to move to the
top of Group G tonight.
News of Chelsea’s defeat in Seville provoked wild cheers
from the Anfield faithful, but that result means the
Spanish side will travel to Anfield on November 23 still
in with an outside chance of qualifying themselves.
Betis will then have a final home game against whipping
boys Anderlecht while Liverpool may have to go to
Stamford Bridge on December 6 still needing something
from the match.
That is something Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is
desperate to avoid but he can take comfort from his
side’s performance with Fernando Morientes, Luis Garcia
and Djibril Cisse scoring at Anfield.
Anderlecht’s night of misery was compounded by a late
red card for substitute Nenad Jestrovic, believed to be
for racial abuse of Mohamed Sissoko.
Liverpool made just one change from the side which beat
West Ham on Saturday, Benitez leaving out Cisse and
opting for Peter Crouch up front alongside Morientes,
which meant skipper Steven Gerrard was again used on the
right of midfield.
Crouch was involved immediately, heading a Steve Finnan
cross wide and then setting up Luis Garcia for a dipping
drive which was held by Silvio Proto.
Liverpool took a firm grip on proceedings with slick
passing moves, only punctuated by an Anderlecht break
which saw Serhat blatantly dive over a challenge from
John Arne Riise in the corner of the box.
Danish referee Kim Milton Nielsen waved play on, but
maybe should have done something about the theatrics.
Penned back for long spells, Anderlecht could still
produce slick passing of their own and one fine example
was brought to an end by a Sissoko trip on Christian
Wilhelmsson which earned a booking for the Mali
A minute later Crouch came close to his first Liverpool
goal when he slid in on the near post to stab a low
Gerrard cross just wide.
The supply line of crosses from Finnan had been
consistent and when the Irish fullback fired in another
from the right, Morientes met it six yards out with a
first time effort which Proto blocked. Crouch could not
turn quickly enough to do anything but hook the rebound
But Morientes opened the scoring on 34 minutes when he
chested down a Gerrard through ball before firing a
drive in off the far post as Hannu Tihinen failed to
close down quickly enough.
It was the Spaniard’s first Anfield goal of the season
and only his sixth goal in 28 matches for the club.
Liverpool started the second period intent on finishing
the contest as quickly as possible.
Morientes had a shot deflected wide and Sissoko saw his
12-yard effort also blocked.
Jamie Carragher then saw an unopposed header from the
corner clutched gratefully by Proto but Liverpool’s
system was disrupted when Morientes was replaced on 52
minutes by Bolo Zenden, the goalscorer clearly carrying
However on 61 minutes Finnan again provided the
ammunition and Garcia, some 15 yards out and at a
difficult angle, flicked a perfect header on the run
into the far corner for Liverpool’s second.
Anderlecht responded with a battling run down the left
and along the byline by Wilhelmsson, before his shot was
blocked on the near post by Jose Reina.
But Liverpool were flying now and Sissoko and Alonso
both went close in a sustained period of attacking.
Liverpool sent on Cisse for Crouch on 71 minutes before
referee Nielsen had his famous red card out again. The
official who has sent off David Beckham and Wayne Rooney
on past occasions this time dispatched Serbian Jestrovic
on 75 minutes.
The substitute was involved in an exchange of words with
Sissoko and Nielsen was clearly not happy with what he
heard, instantly brandishing the card.
A minute from time Cisse completed the victory when he
ran onto a Kewell pass before coolly slipping the ball
past Proto for his eighth Champions League goal in 11
games this season.