Results donít matter
but lack of sharpness will do
Comment by Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post
Thereís only one thing worse than playing
in a 3-0 defeat Ė not playing in it. So itís not the result
against Espanyol that should give anyone cause for concern
ahead of the new season Ė itís the fact that Jamie Carragher
might not have one of his main defensive partners alongside
him to take on Tottenhamís strikeforce a week on Sunday.
Itís typical that in the summer Liverpool let Sami Hyypia go
that injuries to Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have
disrupted the pre-season preparations.
It seems that Agger will be okay for the beginning of the
campaign which is a relief. But pre-season is like your
revision Ė you need it to be ready for the tough
examination. If you donít do it, you struggle.
And having an experienced, established centre-back who is
fully on his game and ready for the real business of the
Premier League is vital.
Put two such defenders on the sidelines during those
precious weeks of pre-season and suddenly White Hart Lane in
less than two weeks time looks a very tough proposition.
At least Carragher will have no problems Ė in fact, he will
be out of the traps like a greyhound after the amount of
running he has had to do in these friendlies.
But even if Agger recovers as he is expected to, missing
such a good test like the one Espanyol gave Liverpool on
Sunday night is so unfortunate.
You donít want your players to come in and play catch-up at
the start of a season and I think Rafael Benitez can count
himself unlucky to have injury concerns before the campaign
has even started.
The fact is Degen and San Jose are unproven and neither can
deliver the kind of automatic reliability you got when you
could bring Hyypia in to plug the gaps at the back.
But letsís look at things positively. Benitez is currently
going about solving his issues very well, especially in the
case of Xabi Alonso.
I said here last week how important it was to get the cash
in for the player as swiftly as possible and getting close
to a conclusion of the deal with four weeks of the transfer
window left is a good bit of business.
And one thing is also for certain Ė losing 3-0 to Espanyol
in a pre-season friendly should not cause Benitez or anyone
else sleepless nights.
I remember at Anfield that we always used to be notorious
bad starters in the summer warm-ups - and the lads in the
boot room couldnít have given a monkeyís.
They might have given us stick for playing badly in a
friendly but privately theyíd be laughing about it.
They, like Iím sure Benitez is this week, were delighted we
had been stopped from getting carried away and they knew
that all the running we were doing chasing the ball was
getting us primed for the important stuff.
Because a good competitive 90 minutes, even one when you
lose 3-0, is worth far more than anything you can do in week
on the training ground.
So Sunday night was great for everyone involved Ė and I feel
a real setback for those who werenít.
Mark Lawrenson was talking to NICK SMITH
We did not do enough
By James Carroll at Estadi Cornella-El Prat - LFC
Rafa Benitez spoke of his disappointment
after Liverpool crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Espanyol in Spain
on Sunday evening.
Ben Sahar struck twice in the second half to add to an early
goal from Luis Garcia as the 'Periquitos' celebrated the
opening of their new Estadi Cornella-El Prat in style.
"The game was very important for them," Benitez told
Liverpoolfc.tv. "For us it was a friendly game, but you have
to play with intensity in every match and you have to work
harder than we did today.
"For 25 minutes in the first half we were more or less okay,
but for the rest of the game they were on top of us, winning
every second ball and challenge. You cannot win these kind
of games if you don't work harder.
"We had chances and hit the crossbar and post, but clearly
we did not deserve to win."
Benitez refused to single out any individuals, insisting the
team as a unit did not perform.
"I don't think it was a problem of one or two players, I
think the team as a whole were not working hard enough,"
said the Reds boss.
"Espanyol were very good moving between the lines. We were
not pressing and working together and it created a big
problem for our defenders.
"But when these things happen in pre-season, you can change
things for the start of the season. We have 15 more days and
all the players can work together."
The Reds will now head back to Merseyside before travelling
to Norway to take on FC Lyn in Oslo.
Benitez added: "We have had some players coming back late
and they need to play and train more for their fitness, so
we will see if we can improve in the next game."
Reds tumble to Espanyol defeat
Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso made a
brief appearance as a strong Liverpool team suffered a 3-0
defeat to Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat.
Midfielder Alonso came off the bench with six minutes
remaining as Espanyol officially opened their new stadium,
and reports in Spain indicate it may be his final appearance
Luis Garcia - a namesake of the former Liverpool player -
put Mauricio Pochettino's side ahead after 19 minutes and
former Chelsea reserve Ben Sahar scored a second-half double
to give Espanyol an impressive win.
The Barcelona-based team struggled to put teams under
pressure at their previous ground, Montjuic, where the
stands were far away from the pitch.
But the home side were able to feel the warmth of a sell-out
crowd at their new home in Cornella-El Prat, and looked to
boss the game early on.
Liverpool began well and Steven Gerrard tried his luck from
long range early on, only to see his effort sail wide.
The Reds captain then almost gave the visitors the lead
after 18 minutes, when he crashed a fierce effort against
A minute later, Liverpool were behind as former Celtic
midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura played in Luis Garcia and the
Spain forward beat international team-mate Jose Reina with a
neat low finish.
Gerrard curled a free-kick against the post from 20 yards
eight minutes later as Rafael Benitez's side sought a quick
Espanyol were proving hard to break down and the Catalans
thought they had gone two goals up three minutes before
half-time, when Raul Tamudo fired clinically past Reina.
However, the veteran striker was ruled offside and the home
fans had to be content with a one-goal lead at the break.
Philipp Degen, Andrea Dossena, Ryan Babel and Jay Spearing
came on for the visitors at the break, replacing Glen
Johnson, Emiliano Insua, Yossi Benayoun and Javier
Espanyol made five changes themselves, but displayed more
urgency and went 2-0 up after 62 minutes.
Jose Callejon's pass found Sahar in the area, and the Israel
striker slid the ball under Reina.
Benitez brought on Albert Riera, Andriy Voronin, David N'Gog
and Damien Plessis late on, and Alonso made his brief
appearance six minutes from the end.
But Espanyol wrapped up a fine win minutes before the end,
when Sahar netted after Reina could only parry Ferran
Corominas' close-range effort.