more Cup action
Liverpool's Carling Cup hero Florent Sinama-Pongolle
has urged manager Rafael Benitez to stick with the
youngsters for next month's semi-final against Watford
after the Reds' rookies sent Tottenham out.
Sinama-Pongolle kept his nerve to score a penalty four
minutes from the end of extra-time to level Jermain
Defoe's 108th-minute opener and then converted the
decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out to send Liverpool
into the last four.
Benitez had made nine changes for the game but hinted he
might bring back the big guns for the two-legged clash
with Watford, who dumped Southampton and Portsmouth out
of the competition en route to the last four.
But Sinama-Pongolle, who would have preferred to draw
Manchester United than Watford, given Sir Alex
Ferguson's youthful approach to the competition,
insisted Liverpool's youngsters can win the trophy.
The 20-year-old said: "He (Benitez) should stay with the
young team, it's a good challenge.
"I like the challenge. It is positive for us because
there are a lot of great players at Liverpool but in the
Carling Cup we started with a young team so why not
finish with a young team as well?
"There is a very good spirit. I have a really good
relationship with everyone here, I am so happy. All the
players have a good relationship with everybody and that
is why I am so enjoying it.
"Watford in the semi-final is a hard, hard game.
Probably if you play Manchester United (who face
Chelsea) it may be easier.
"Watford are a good team as they proved against
Portsmouth. We must concentrate, win two games and we
are in the final.
"Why can't we win it? We saw in the game against
Tottenham we work hard, put in a lot of effort and I
think we can really do something positive."
Sinama-Pongolle's strikes were vital not only for
Liverpool's Carling Cup cause, which Benitez has
frequently insisted is bottom of his list of priorities,
but for their Barclays Premiership and UEFA Champions
League hopes too.
Liverpool have something of a crisis up front with
Djibril Cisse recovering from a severely broken leg but
Milan Baros still on the mend from a hamstring strain.
After Neil Mellor nailed the winner against Arsenal at
the weekend, Sinama-Pongolle last night scored his first
goal of the season to boost his own chances of a regular
run in the first team.
By Paul Higham - Planet Football/Sky Sports
Martin Jol says that Fredi Kanoute's handball cost
Tottenham the game against Liverpool.
Spurs were leading 1-0 in the second half of extra time
when Kanoute stuck his arm up to handle the ball inside
the box and give The Reds a penalty.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle duly dispatched the spot kick to
send the game to penalties, where Kanoute compounded his
misery by having his effort saved by Jerzy Dudek.
Jol was fuming at Mali marksman Kanoute, and could not
understand why he handled the ball in such a manner.
"I cannot understand why Fredi did it," said Jol.
"It was very unfortunate and maybe unforgivable, but at
every club you have someone like that.
"It is always the same when somebody does something like
that, you think 'why has he done that?'
"It's a crazy thing to do and nobody can understand it.
"I hope he does not do it again. He made the decision to
handle the ball and I saw him do it.
"I was hoping the referee had not seen it. It cost us."
Win was for the fans
By Mark Platt - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez hailed Liverpool's penalty shoot-out
victory over Tottenham as a 'fantastic result' and
dedicated the win the to travelling Liverpudlians who
roared the Reds on at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool secured a place in the last four of the
Carling Cup and a two-legged tie against Championship
side Watford, courtesy of a thrilling penalty shoot-out
that was won by Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
It was the icing on the cake of another proud night as
the club's up and coming youngsters again proved they
have what it takes to compete on the big stage.
"This is a fantastic result. I am very proud of the lads
and delighted for the supporters," beamed Benitez
"In the first half we didn't play well at all and I told
the players if they wanted to have more opportunities of
playing first team football this season then they had to
try and win the game.
"We changed things tactically when we took Neil Mellor
off and from then on we controlled the match.
"Even when Defoe scored I knew we would keep on
fighting. The two penalties from Pongolle will do his
confidence a lot of good. On Sunday it was Mellor who
played well and scored and tonight it was Sinama. This
is good for me as manager, because it gives me more
possibilities in attack."
Looking ahead to the semi-final clash with Watford,
Benitez, when asked if he'd keep faith with these
players that have done him proud, added: "I don't know,
we will have to see at the time.
"We have a lot of important games before then but if
when the times comes around these players are still
doing well then why not? But I don't need to make that
rookies do it again
By Mark Platt - LFC Official Website
Liverpool's remarkable progress in this season's
Carling Cup continues after an inexperienced Reds squad
performed heroically to defeat Tottenham on penalties in
the quarter-final at White Hart Lane.
On another proud night for the club, the Reds' up and
coming youngsters performed admirably to book a place in
the last four of the competition.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored the decisive penalty in
the shoot-out but every player was a hero as Rafa's red
rookies defied the odds again.
Despite starting slowly they grew in stature as the game
progressed fully deserved this victory.
Even though a place in the final of this competition was
tantalising close Rafael Benitez opted to field a
virtual second-string side, handing a senior debut to
19-year old full-back David Raven and also including
fellow youngsters Stephen Warnock, Zak Whitbread and
Darren Potter in the starting eleven.
There was also a first start for Antonio Nunez and
recalls for Jerzy Dudek, who captained the side,
Stephane Henchoz, Igor Biscan and Salif Diao.
In contrast, Spurs were almost at full strength and it
was they who started the game brighter in front of a
capacity crowd at White Hart Lane.
After just five minutes Liverpool were given a scare
when Freddie Kanoute turned Zak Whitbread inside the
area and hit the bar with a well-struck shot.
The home side continued to enjoy the majority of
possession and Rohan Ricketts spurned a glorious
opportunity when he headed wide from close-range on 19
Dudek was the busier of the two keepers and he twice
kept Martin Jol's men at bay with impressive saves as
the half wore on.
Liverpool's inexperience during the first period was
evident, although debutant Raven was an impressive
performer who did not look out of his depth at this
The attacking partnership of Neil Mellor and Florent
Sinama-Pongolle failed to trouble Paul Robinson in the
Tottenham goal and early in the second half Mellor was
replaced by reserve captain John Welsh.
Spurs remained in the ascendancy and Robbie Keane missed
an open goal after a mistake by Dudek but the big Pole
quickly made amends when denying the same player with
stunning fingertip save.
After 69 minutes Benitez handed another graduate from
the club's Academy a senior debut when he sent on pacy
attacker Mark Smyth to replace Nunez.
An England youth international, Smyth got involved
immediately and went close to breaking the deadlock just
moments after entering the fray with a low drive that
forced Robinson into a low save.
The Reds were certainly looking livelier as the game
entered its closing stages and Tottenham defender
Anthony Gardner was lucky not be sent off when he
stopped Pongolle in his tracks as the French strike
attempted to run clear through on goal.
Welsh then tried his luck with a shot from distance that
sailed narrowly over the bar and Liverpool, roared on by
a vociferous contingent of 2,800 freezing Liverpudlians,
had a vastly experienced Tottenham on the rack.
Spurs will have been relieved to heard the full-time
whistle but with the bit between their teeth the Reds
started extra-time as they'd finished the 90 minutes and
Welsh had the travelling fans on their feet with a
right-footed curler that was just inches wide.
If anyone deserved a goal at this stage it was Liverpool
but it was Spurs who finally broke the deadlock through
Defoe, 12 minutes from time. Kanoute crossed low and
Defoe converted from close-range.
It was a cruel blow and the Benitez Babes looked to
heading for a heartbreaking exit from the Carling Cup.
However, this epic tie was not over and with just five
minutes remaining Pongolle scored from the spot and
force a penalty shoot-out.
Defoe, Henchoz, Carrick and Partridge all netted before
the pendulum swung Liverpool's way when Dudek saved from
Kanoute. Unfortunately, Potter then hit a post but Brown
blazed over the bar. Welsh put the Reds ahead for the
first time and although Ziegler equalised, Pongolle
secured an unforgettable triumph by converting his
second penalty of the night.
With a place in the Cardiff final now just two games
away this set of players seem determined to go all the
way and who would bet against them.
What a night!