Sissoko - two of the front men at Anfield.
Skipper is the
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
Thank heaven for Steven Gerrard. Liverpool's skipper
has been the inspiration for many triumphs - who could
forget his European goals last season, and particularly
the one that sparked the incredible comeback against AC
His pre-season form in the Champions League qualifiers
has already produced quality goals.
"Quality" was not quite the word I would use to describe
his goal last night against Kaunus, but his presence on
the field, his urgency, his awareness, were all top
quality and he lifted his side when they needed it.
From a game that was dying on its feet, Gerrard gave it
new meaning when he came on as a late substitute.
It didn't take long before he was threading through a
superb ball for Djibril Cisse, whose effort brought a
fine save from the keeper. Then his speculative
cross-shot squirmed under the keeper to give the fans
something to cheer.
They had packed Anfield hoping to see a goals
spectacular. It never occurred and, after a first half
that was simply a non-event, it looked as if they would
go home disappointed despite overall victory.
But Gerrard changed that. He is the catalyst for so much
of the team's good work.
He was greeted with a tremendous roar, typifying just
how much the fans regard him in terms of importance to
Rafa Benitez's side.
As a training exercise the second leg gave the manager
the opportunity to play some of his squad players.
Although the Kaunas threat was limited, Zak Whitbread
and Stephen Warnock looked solid at the back, made some
timely interceptions and generally used the ball well.
Scott Carson had little to do in goal, but he held onto
an early free-kick, and was quick to come out of his
area when required.
But the big letdown in the first half was the lack of
opportunities to give new boy Peter Crouch and Nando
Morientes any chance to threaten the visitors' goal.
Gerrard's appearance lifted things, and Cisse looked
alert and direct.
Garcia's pass into his path late on for the second goal
was a gem and the striker's finish on the volley with
his instep was brilliantly executed.
There was no Gerrard for most of the time and Xabi
Alonso was rested - these two are critical to the
creative side if the Reds are to find the cutting edge
that was lacking for so long last season.
Mohamed Sissoko gave a promising display in midfield,
breaking up the play and using the ball well, and he
could prove a popular figure in the months to come.
The Reds may still be in training mode at present, but
the tempo will have to be raised for next week's
Champions League qualifier, yet questions remain over
who will fill various positions when the league action
I just hope Benitez has all the answers.
Stevie and Momo
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez singled out goalscoring hero Steven
Gerrard and Momo Sissoko for special praise following
Liverpool's 2-0 victory over FBK Kaunas in the Champions
League second round qualifier.
For Sissoko it was his Anfield debut and his first 90
minutes for Liverpool and he gave an energetic and
enthusiastic display. Gerrard came on to score the
opening goal and inspire Liverpool to a 5-1 aggregate
Benitez said: "It was a difficult game to start with as
they worked hard and closed down the space but we were
much better in the second half and are through to the
"Steven Gerrard is scoring a lot of goals for us and I
wanted to put him on for the supporters to see him. I
hope he continues to score a lot more for us.
"For me Momo Sissoko was one of the best players on the
pitch. He worked hard, he won tackles, kept it simple
and I am happy with him."
Regarding the hamstring injury to Peter Crouch, Benitez
would only say: "I don't have any news at this moment
and I will have to talk with the doctor to see what the
Gerrard inspires Liverpool
Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 win over Kaunas at Anfield
- but again left it late with Steven Gerrard and Djibril
Cisse scoring from the bench.
Rafael Benitez's troops were always in charge of the
Champions League second qualifying round showdown after
earning a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
And they strolled through the first half at a canter,
with Bolo Zenden looking lively with some flashing
strikes and Peter Crouch combining well with Fernando
Morientes, whose close-range header drew a fine save
from keeper Sarunas Kilijonas on 14 minutes.
Cisse's arrival after the break added some urgency to
the Reds' play, and his strike was turned away for a
corner from which Gerrard whipped home a low shot which
squirmed under the keeper's body to break the deadlock
on 78 minutes.
The French striker then put the icing on the cake of a
solid display when he coolly volleyed home a clever dink
from Luis Garcia on 85 minutes.
Steven Gerrard revealed he was happy to get the chance
to score his seventh goal of Liverpool's Champions
League qualifying campaign.
The England midfielder had only been on the pitch for
two minutes after arriving as a 75th-minute substitute
with Liverpool toiling against the plucky Lithuanians.
But after netting he said: "I didn't want the night off.
The manager told me I would start on the bench and if
needed he would give me some minutes.
"But I wanted to get on - I don't like watching
After netting for the fourth-successive match, Gerrard
continued: "I'm getting a bit of luck.
"I was very lucky tonight but I'm going to claim the
goal tonight - and long may it continue.
"We are using these Champions League qualifying games as
pre-season games but they are quicker than friendlies,
so we are getting fitter quicker."