After The Match 


Liverpool-West Ham 0-0           1.12.08                               PL
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Hyypia, Alonso, Gerrard, Benayoun, Riera, Keane, Kuyt
Subs: Ngog (Keane 66), Babel (Riera78)
Not used: Cavalieri, Insua, Kelly, Leiva, Mascherano
Yellow: Alonso (54)             Mullins (20)
Red: None
Referee: P Walton
Attendance: 41.169
Shots on target: 6-2
Shots off target: 15-5
Blocked shots: 4-0
Fouls conceded: 5-9
Corners: 17-5
Offsides: 3-5
Possession: 66.9-33.1
Yellow: 1-1
can guarantee that we are
not going for Michael Owen."
Rafael Benitez
0312: Liverpool are showing too much patience
0212: Gerrard: We must handle pressure
0212: Benitez backs Keane to come good
0212: Now we’ll see who can handle pressure
0212: Liverpool must give a chance to Babel
0212: Benitez must trust Babel
          or kiss goodbye to title hopes

0212: Zola: Anfield draw the best yet
0112: Rafa: We deserved to win
0112: Reds go top despite draw

Liverpool are showing
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 purpose.

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 magnificent.

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 a predator.

I’d also tell Albert Riera to really get out wide much more often – and tell the other Liverpool players to keep away from him.

Riera is much more effective when he’s in a one on one situation out wide and can bamboozle his man and get his crosses in.

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 selfish.

Gerrard: We must handle pressure

Sky Sports

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 top."

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 performances.

"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 again."

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."

Benitez backs 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 seeing now.

"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 Premier League.

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."

Now we’ll see who
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 moment.

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 pundits today.

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 fuss.

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 squad.

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 last night.

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 better.

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.

Liverpool must give
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 eventual destination.

It was a stark contrast to the man whose striking role he covets.

Robbie Keane is disciplined, prodigiously hard-working . . . but anonymous.

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 at Anfield.

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 challenge.

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 victorious.

“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 them up.

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 about Liverpool.

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 top corner.

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 faltering challenge.

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."

Rafa: 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 did too.

"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 chances.

"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."

Reds go top despite draw

Sky Sports

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 break.

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 table.

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