too much patience
Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
When the Reds beat Manchester United early
on in the season, they played with tenacity, belief and real
That really had the fans believing we can challenge for the
title this season.
Fast forward to Monday night. We go top – yet it’s another
goalless draw at Anfield against a side we should be beating
– and people are unhappy and unconvinced at the performance.
It’s a strange situation of course. But there is no doubt
the team’s confidence seems a bit low at the moment.
For me, we are now trying to play too slowly and patiently.
You can see it in the way the lads are passing the ball to
each other, it’s often laboured and predictable.
We’re not getting right into the heart of opposition
territory the way we were – and too much of the build up
play is cumbersome.
I want to see us getting back into the opposition’s faces a
bit more with our passing and moving. We need a return of
that strong belief and purpose out there.
Few of the Liverpool players had a good game against West
Ham, apart from one or two like Sami Hyypia, who was
Robbie Keane again struggled to make an impact and frankly I
think it’s time he changed the way he approaches matches.
I’d actually like him to be a good bit lazier.
I know that sounds daft but I mean it. He is constantly
running around here, there and everywhere, closing people
down, when with Torres out in particular I would prefer to
see him hanging in and around the box and lurking more like
I’d also tell Albert Riera to really get out wide much more
often – and tell the other Liverpool players to keep away
Riera is much more effective when he’s in a one on one
situation out wide and can bamboozle his man and get his
Other top teams are giving us big chances to establish a gap
and while we’re failing to take them, there are games next
against Blackburn and Hull when we can put things right .
I want to see the lads get mean, tough and even a bit
Gerrard: We must
Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool need to
learn to cope with the pressure of being at the top of the
Premier League table.
The Reds displaced Chelsea at the summit on Monday after a
0-0 home draw with West Ham United, although the Anfield
faithful booed their team off at full-time.
After failing to win the title since 1990, many are
predicting this season to be Liverpool's best opportunity to
end that trophy drought.
And Reds captain Gerrard feels that the players must
maintain the level of form which has put the team in such a
strong position after 15 games.
"We're up against some fantastic teams in Chelsea, Arsenal,
United and Villa, and other teams are putting pressure on
the top four," Gerrard told Sky Sports News.
"There's so much pressure week in, week out to deliver
results and we need to learn to handle that pressure, and we
need to learn to deal with being at the top.
"There's a different pressure being at the top to being
second or third, and that's where we need to learn to relax
and keep doing the things we've done that got us to the
Following the stalemate with the Hammers, midfield dynamo
Gerrard is hoping for a positive response from Liverpool
against Blackburn this weekend.
He added: "I think as captain it's important to dampen down
expectations - there's no point getting carried away in
December, there's still an awful long way to go.
"But there's a belief in the dressing room that we can be
contenders and we can be in the title race. It's easy for me
to say that, we've got to go and prove that with
"If you look at last night's performance the critics will be
out ready to criticise, so we need to go to Blackburn on
Saturday, get three points and get those people with us
Gerrard also feels that beating their closest rivals in the
title race will not be the decisive factor in Liverpool's
prospects of finishing top of the pile.
"I don't agree with that at all," he continued. "I think
it's important that you do take points off the other top
sides, but I think the games against the teams below you and
down at the foot of the table are just as important.
"You get three points for a win at the end of the day, so to
beat someone in the bottom three is just as important as
beating someone in the top three.
"It's important that we don't slip up against teams we
should be beating."
Keane to come good
BBC Sport Online
Rafael Benitez admitted he has yet to see
the best of Robbie Keane after the striker was taken off for
the 15th time this season in the draw with West Ham.
Keane arrived at Anfield for a £20.3m fee from Tottenham in
July but has only scored four times and completed the full
90 minutes on three occasions.
Benitez said: "Robbie is a better player than the one we are
"He gets disappointed when things are not going his way. He
is a worker but can improve. He will be okay."
The Irishman was replaced after 66 minutes by 19-year-old
French striker David Ngog on Monday as Liverpool chased the
win that would have moved them three points clear in the
Benitez added: "Robbie was disappointed when he came off.
But players always want to be on the pitch for 90 minutes.
"We know what kind of player Robbie Keane is. He needs
people around him to pass the ball well.
"He will score more if we create chances for him. If that
does not happen, we have to use players with different
qualities to open up the game."
can handle pressure
Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Liverpool may have gone top of the league
last night but it was another very disappointing display and
it’s clear there are problems with the team just at the
Last night there wasn’t enough urgency and certainly not
enough creativity on show.
And that’s why despite overtaking Chelsea, there are
concerns and criticisms around from quite a few people and
The Reds struggled to find the cohesion and flair which was
on display earlier this season – and again we failed to
break down a team we were expected to beat without too much
Credit to West Ham to some degree because they did pretty
well and created some chances of their own. It’s clear under
Zola they have been working on their defending and trying to
keep clean sheets.
But they are not a top side and it wasn’t as if last night’s
game was similar to the match against Stoke, when they piled
everyone deep behind the ball and we created chance after
chance which then went begging.
You get chances to play your football against a team like
West Ham – but we played in fits and starts last night.
We had spells and I know we could well have scored from some
of the opportunities, but there was never really the belief
out there or a real confidence that we were going to outfox
them and break them down.
It was a night when everything was being done more in hope
than expectation. And the end result is that Manchester
United are the biggest winners from this weekend’s round of
fixtures, which is very hard to swallow.
Another frustration was that when Plan A wasn’t working, we
didn’t seem to have a Plan B to unlock West Ham. A couple of
changes were made with Ngog and Babel coming on, but last
night it didn’t really seem to have the impact we were all
hoping to see.
It is at times like these that you will really find out
about the players in your squad.
Rafa Benitez will be telling them to keep believing in
themselves; to be mentally strong and stick together as a
It’s no time for people to say they feel tired or be sorry
for themselves. And no time either for disharmony and finger
pointing at individuals. Because then it can sometimes be
tempting for some players to go hiding – and that’s what
must not happen.
It’s when things aren’t going well that you learn most about
your players. You see those who refuse to shrink and stand
up to the challenge. So we’ll find out now who the big men
and big characters really are in this squad. And let’s hope
that’s all of them.
Liverpool are top but no one’s happy. That’s because we are
better than this – the team has proved it with other results
and performances this season.
Forget last night now. There are important games coming up
and points to be won so let’s go out and start getting them,
instead of letting them slip.
Then everyone will feel much better.
Fans have right to their say
There may have been boos from some sections of the Anfield
crowd last night on the final whistle.
But you cannot criticise the supporters who were magnificent
Rafa Benitez – and to be fair many of the supporters
themselves – had asked for less anxiety than seemed to be in
the air for the Fulham game. And the Kop responded
throughout, giving everything that was asked of them.
When the team was struggling, they kept roaring them on and
backing them in great voice, from start to finish.
But sadly there wasn’t enough goalmouth action or conviction
about the play on the pitch to really put them on the edge
of their seats.
The fans know Liverpool have a real chance to challenge for
the title this season,. And that’s why there is so much hope
and expectation around.
It is extremely frustrating to see us blowing chances at
home and the fear is we’re again guilty of repeating last
season’s mistakes, when there were just too many home draws.
It was only after the game had finished that the supporters
let their feelings be known.
The harsh truth is they have every right at that stage to
express that dismay and frustration.
After the backing they gave the lads all night, they
shouldn’t be criticised for that in my book.
They know their team can play much better and do much
It’s as simple as that.
Reds stars must start chipping in with goals
The fear is that, unless Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard
are hitting the back of the net, then there are not enough
goalscorers in this side.
It is an issue.
Other players have got to step up more and make things
happen in that department. Top sides need to see goals
coming from other areas of the pitch - and it’s time we saw
other players improving their accounts.
It’s crucial the goals start flowing now from other areas.
a chance to Babel
Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Rafa Benitez challenged Ryan Babel to make
him sit up and take notice last night.
The young Dutchman kept his half of the bargain.
In the build-up to the visit of London’s lambs to be
slaughtered, the Reds boss said: “If he plays as a
substitute he has to show something and then if he has an
impact he can be considered for the next game.”
I would suggest he now comes under careful consideration.
Babel was on the pitch for only 13 minutes against West Ham.
In that time he rattled the back stanchion with a fiercely
dipping drive which had Robert Green worried and set off on
two mazy dribbles, of which even he had no idea of the
It was a stark contrast to the man whose striking role he
Robbie Keane is disciplined, prodigiously hard-working . . .
The energetic Irishman shook his head in disgust when his
number was held aloft with only 65 minutes elapsed.
But in that time, he managed just one effort at goal – a
rising drive which was well off target.
Defender Sami Hyypia was unfortunate on four separate
occasions with flashing headers, while a striker deemed
surplus to requirements at Anfield, Craig Bellamy, came
closest to breaking the deadlock with a wonderful drive
which pinged off the inside of Pepe Reina’s goalpost.
All night Keane chased down defenders like a Jack Russell
chasing its tail, enthusiastic and willing without ever
looking like succeeding.
In the absence of Fernando Torres, Liverpool lack pace and
penetration in their forward line – exactly the two
qualities Babel brings.
The Dutchman enjoyed a promising debut campaign in English
football – he was trusted enough to start the home leg of
the Champions League semi-final, which was one of 29 starts.
But this season he has kicked off a match only four times –
just one in the Premier League.
The time is surely right to give him another go, because
Liverpool’s laboured efforts in front of goal are causing
concern on the terraces.
Liverpool won their eighth league title with a goalless draw
I wasn’t there to see Leicester City keep Bill Shankly’s
second great side at bay, but it’s safe to assume his side
wasn’t booed off.
That was the ignominious reaction to Rafa Benitez’s team
going one point clear at the top of the Premier League.
A minute or two later, with the Kop rapidly emptying – a
half-hearted chant of “Liverpool, Liverpool, top of the
league” was aired.
It lacked conviction, a little like Liverpool’s title
But despite that absence of certitude, the Reds are still in
the position that Chelsea and Manchester United crave.
And in the two head to heads which matter, they’ve come out
“Tomorrow our fans will see the newspapers, they will read
the Echo and see the table and they will be really pleased,”
said Benitez afterwards.
The biggest concern last night was that West Ham didn’t come
and park a bus in front of Robert Green’s goal.
They left two enterprising attackers on the pitch all
evening, looked to counter in numbers at every available
opportunity and still Liverpool rarely looked like opening
When the Reds did create openings, they came from corners,
and even an unexpectedly excellent performance from Andrea
Dossena couldn’t help create anything clearcut.
Benitez must trust Babel
or kiss goodbye to title hopes
Comment by Sam Sheringham - Setanta Sports
Another week and another two points
dropped at home by Liverpool as their title challenge
continues to falter.
Chelsea’s defeat to Arsenal gave Rafael Benitez’s side a
great chance to make a bold statement of their championship
credentials. The brief was clear: sweep aside the hapless
Hammers and take control of the title race. But not for the
first time this season, Gerrard, Alonso and their functional
but flawed supporting cast fluffed their lines. As the boos
rang out around Anfield, you could sense the disappointment
of fans coming to terms with the likelihood that their long
wait for the title may be about to get even longer.
But it’s not all bad news for The Reds. They are one point
clear and despite failing to score at home to Stoke, Fulham
or West Ham, the destination of the Premier League trophy is
still very much in their hands.
However, something has to change and it needs to change
fast. I believe the answer lies in how Benitez chooses to
compensate for the loss of Fernando Torres. Last night he
chose to pair Robbie Keane and Dirk Kuyt up front, and with
Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun huffing and puffing on the
wings, there was a blatant lack of pace and penetration
Ryan Babel, the one player who could replicate Torres’s
ability to frighten defenders by running at them and beyond
them with speed, was kept on the bench until the 78th
minute. In the short time he was on the field the Dutchman
showed more dynamism and directness than the rest of
Liverpool’s attacking quartet put together, and almost
scored with a fierce drive that swerved narrowly past the
Benitez’s treatment of Babel this season has been a mystery.
After appearing to cement his place in the first team with
some impressive performances towards the end of last term,
it seemed this would be the year when the 21-year-old kicked
on and really justified his £11.5 million transfer fee. A
minor injury held him back at the start of the season, but
when he came on and grabbed the winner against Manchester
United, he looked destined to take a starring role in
Liverpool’s assault on the title. But instead, the Dutchman
has had to settle for a place on the bench, usually
remaining there until deep into the second half, and given
little chance to influence the outcome of the match.
Benitez has talked openly about the fact that he doesn’t
trust Babel, he says the youngster must learn to defend
better, to be more like Kuyt. What the Spaniard doesn’t seem
to realise is that the best thing about Babel is that he is
nothing like his fellow Dutchman - a title-winning side
needs its mavericks as well as its work-horses and Babel’s
willingness to take risks and try something beyond simple
pragmatism could well be the key to unlocking stubborn
defences like Fulham and West Ham.
With Keane looking a shadow of his former self (just two
goals in 15 league games now) and Riera starting to
demonstrate why Man City offloaded him so quickly, Benitez
is in urgent need of a spark to reignite his team’s
What must be particularly galling for Babel is that he seems
to have fallen behind David Ngog in the pecking order. When
Torres first tweaked his hamstring against Aston Villa in
August, it was the little-known Frenchman who took his place
and again last night, when Benitez needed a goal, he turned
to the 19-year-old before eventually giving Babel his chance
with just 12 minutes remaining. Ngog has done very little to
suggest he is ready for the rigours of Premier League
football and, besides, surely if he was any good, Arsene
Wenger would have signed him three years ago.
Liverpool have their best chance in years of winning the
league. With their three main rivals taking points off each
other and losing nine games already between them this
season, the door is well and truly open. But it’s going to
take a sea change in the mentality of their manager to barge
through it and claim the glory.
It’s time unleash his flying Dutchman.
Zola: Anfield draw the best yet
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola reckons
Monday's goalless draw at Liverpool was the most impressive
performance of his short spell as manager.
Zola, in charge for a dozen matches, has watched his team
earn three successive clean sheets in an unbeaten run that
has dragged the side away from the bottom three.
And Zola hailed striker Craig Bellamy as "awesome" on the
Welshman's first return to Anfield since his £7.5m move to
east London 17 months ago.
Zola said: "I am very pleased with my side, that was the
best term performance since I became manager.
"And as for Craig, he was awesome. Maybe he felt he had
something to prove after leaving Liverpool, and he covered
every blade of grass.
"I like what he does, not only as a striker but the hard
work he puts in helping the midfield."
We deserved to win
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez claimed his team deserved
more than a point after Anfield endured its third goalless
draw of the season.
The result moved Liverpool one point clear of Chelsea at the
top of the Barclays Premier League - but it could be more.
The Reds had 20 shots during a decent display but, with
Robert Green excellent in goal, Gianfranco Zola's men held
firm to follow Stoke and Fulham in leaving Anfield with a
share of the spoils.
Benitez said: "We clearly deserved to win. From the
beginning to the end we tried to win and that's why they had
one or two counter attacks in the second half.
"The team played much better than before and some players
"People can be disappointed and we are too, but we are one
point clear at the top.
"We didn't play well against Fulham but in this game we had
plenty of possession, passed and moved the ball, and had
"If you play badly, don't have chances and the other team is
in control, you can be worried - but we were much better.
"The crowd can be disappointed because they've seen a draw
at home but if they see the newspapers tomorrow they will
see we are top.
"We have one more point than Chelsea now and if we can go to
Blackburn and win we'll still be top."
Asked if his team was lacking confidence in front of goal,
Benitez said: "Maybe some players are but it's just a case
of us trying to keep creating chances - then I'm sure we'll
start taking them."
Benitez was also quizzed on whether he would look to bring
in another striker in January - possibly Michael Owen.
He responded: "Clearly I can guarantee that we are not going
for Michael Owen."
top despite draw
Liverpool moved to the top of the Premier
League after being held to a goalless draw by West Ham at
Anfield on Monday night.
The Reds could not turn a domination of possession into
goals, with veteran defender Sami Hyypia going close with
four chances in both halves, with Carlton Cole clearing one
effort off the line.
Instead it was former Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy who
went closest to scoring when his long-range effort from
outside the box hit Pepe Reina's right post.
In the second period, Robert Green needed to pull off a
great full stretch save to deny Yossi Benayoun, while at the
other end Cole went close before a long range Ryan Babel
effort was inches wide for the Reds in injury time.
Liverpool had two early penalty appeals turned down by
referee Peter Walton when both Benayoun and then Dirk Kuyt
drove the ball at Herita Ilunga from close range.
West Ham had looked tentative from the start, with Scott
Parker - playing despite a week of illness - being caught in
possession, while Julian Flaubert seemed unsure of what to
do when he got the ball.
After 14 minutes Robert Green raced from his line to punch
away, but the ball fell to Albert Riera, whose shot was
blocked in the six-yard box by James Collins.
The Liverpool pressure increased and Mullins was booked
after 19 minutes when he tripped Benayoun in full flow.
Two minutes later another header from Hyypia was kicked off
the line by Cole.
West Ham's only shot until this point had been a weak
long-range effort from Faubert, scooped up by Reina.
Liverpool kept plugging away, showing the sort of patience
in such situations that boss Rafael Benitez called for after
the 0-0 home draw with Fulham nine days ago.
Steven Gerrard worked his way in from the right and fired
into the side-netting, before Craig Bellamy - on his return
to Anfield after moving to West Ham 17 months ago - almost
broke the deadlock.
Bellamy picked up possession 30 yards out and unleashed a
fine, swerving drive that crashed against Reina's right-hand
post and bounced across goal to safety.
Then Robert Green made a fine point-blank save from Kuyt's
header following a Xabi Alonso corner, two minutes from the
Kuyt and Keane both saw shots go wide as Liverpool opened
the second period on the attack.
But Bellamy was still a danger for West Ham, and after
running past Hyypia he was body-checked by Alonso, the
Spaniard being booked.
Then after 56 minutes Green produced a stunning save to turn
over a Benayoun drive from 10 yards.
Parker shot weakly wide before Mullins drilled a low drive
through a ruck of players for Reina to save.
After 62 minutes Alonso volleyed fiercely over from a
squared Gerrard free-kick. And four minutes later the
ineffective Keane was replaced by French striker David Ngog.
West Ham broke out of defence after 67 minutes, winning a
corner. And when Bellamy curled it towards the near post,
Cole headed inches wide.
Then from a right-wing corner, Hyypia rose to head narrowly
over the bar.
Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Riera after 78 minutes,
with West Ham hanging on as the pressure mounted.
Hyypia headed just wide from a Gerrard corner, with the Kop
behind Green's goal demanding that Liverpool attack more.
West Ham sent on Luis Boa Morte for Faubert with six minutes
of regulation time left.
Green then produced another fine save from a close-range
Kuyt effort following Gerrard's deep cross.
Bellamy and Parker created a chance for Boa Morte on the
break, but he sliced his effort wide.
Babel then broke to see a shot deflected over as West Ham
held on for a valuable point which moves them to 13th in the