After The Match 


Liverpool-Manchester U 0-1 (0-0)        3.3. 07                    PL
Goals: O'Shea (90)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Riise, Carragher, Agger, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Gonzalez, Kuyt, Bellamy
Subs: Aurelio (Gonzalez 61), Pennant (Bellamy 69), Crouch (Sissoko 79)
Not used: Dudek, Hyypia
Yellow: Alonso (41), Carragher (72)       Carrick (43), Neville (81)
Red: Scholes (86)
Referee: M Atkinson
Attendance: 44,403
Shots on target: 4-2
Shots off target: 7-2
Blocked shots: 4-1
Possession: 52-48
Fouls conceded: 11-13
Corners: 12-2
Offsides: 2-1
Yellow: 2-2
HEADLINES "Sometimes football is all about luck."
    Rafael Benitez

0503: Benitez must be given time to secure title
0403: Reds will bounce back vows Kuyt
0303: Rafa rues lack of luck
0303: Fergie delight at 'massive' win
0303: Last gasp United steal spoils

Benitez must be given
time to secure title

By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post

It doesn’t need a flight across the Atlantic for George Gillett and Tom Hicks to see how the land lies on this side of it.

The Americans want to give the fans trophies. The fans want the Premiership trophy. So they didn’t have to be at Anfield on Saturday to know they’ve got some way to go before they can fulfil that dream.

Because Liverpool aren’t getting any closer to it – in fact, this campaign has simply been two steps back from the giant strides made in the previous one.

Then, Rafael Benitez led his side to their highest points tally of the Premiership era, a total just one point lower than United’s yet still a full nine off champions Chelsea.

But the gap was closing, the standards were being raised and with a full, glorious summer market opening up before Benitez it seemed that a bit of shrewd investment was all that was needed to take Liverpool even closer to that elusive 19th title.

Less than a year later, and Jamie Carragher is talking about “better players” being needed to end the frustrating wait. Firmly back to square one.

Liverpool are third, as they were then, but now they stand 10 points behind Chelsea.

And as for Manchester United? Liverpool more than matched them over 90 minutes on Saturday, but in wider terms, the champions-elect have shaken them off from the coat tails and raced away into the distance – now measured at 19 points.

Given that Americans are obsessed with statistics, the new major shareholders will be well aware of those facts.

But they should also be aware of how the only top-flight manager Benitez has yet to get the better of, Sir Alex Ferguson, was able to end his 26-year wait for an Old Trafford title and why, just 14 years later, he stands on the brink of his ninth.

Simply, because he was given time and money. Obviously there’s more to that when building the empire he has, but without those basics it could have crumbled before the foundations were in place.

Benitez is nearing the end of his third season at the Anfield helm – in Ferguson’s world he’s just a wee beginner.

When the Scot won the FA Cup in 1990, he was marking the end of his third full term with his first trophy. If he hadn’t won it he probably wouldn’t even have made it to the end of that campaign.

And it would take another three years for him to deliver the title the club desperately craved. After the same amount of time, Benitez already has an FA Cup and achieved Ferguson’s obsession of conquering European 13 times quicker than him.

Few would back against him doing it again following a successful job completion against reigning champions Barcelona tomorrow.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Liverpool see their rightful place at the top of the English game and this season has only gone to show how much higher the standards are that you have to reach to do it.

Certainly more so than in Ferguson’s time. In the first Premiership campaign of 1992-93, United could have taken the title with just 75 points – and that was in a 42-game season.

Win their next game and they will be on that total already after just 30 games.

The previous two seasons have seen Chelsea set a frighteningly similar pace and the year before that Arsenal didn’t even lose a league game on their way to the Premiership summit.

Ferguson didn’t have to snap anything like a similar stranglehold when he broke his title duck. Liverpool were ageing and their dominance was in decline, while a series of big-money buys finally edged Ferguson over the finishing line and he’s rarely looked back.

Nobody is in any doubt that Benitez is the man to bring similar triumphs back to Anfield, or more realistically Stanley Park.

But the letter to America reads, give him the same tools Ferguson had.

Time and money – and a lot more of both.

Reds will bounce back vows Kuyt

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Dirk Kuyt has vowed that Liverpool will bounce back from the misery of home defeat by bitter enemies Manchester United to knock Barcelona out of the Champions League.

Liverpool lost their 30-match unbeaten home league record to a last seconds winner by John O'Shea, that pushed United closer to the title.

Now Liverpool find their whole season resting on Tuesday's visit to Anfield of the European champions, as they aim to protect their 2-1 lead from the first leg in the Nou Camp.

Kuyt knows that if Liverpool do reach the Champions League quarter-finals, it will make the pain of defeat by United easier to bare.

And the Dutch striker says: "We may well have seen the English champions after United beat us, but I can assure everyone that we will beat Barcelona and reach the Champions League last eight."

He added: "To lose 1-0 like that, right at the end, is a tough blow to take. But we will bounce back for the Champions League, if we play like that we will beat Barcelona.

"If we show the level of skill and effort we did against Manchester United, I have no doubt that we will win against Barcelona and go into the quarter-finals."

Liverpool dominated long period of the north west showdown, but failed to take advantage of the chances that did come their way and were punished in those last seconds, even with United down to ten men following the red card for Paul Scholes.

Peter Crouch, playing with a broken nose, missed a golden chance in the final minutes that he may well have headed in other circumstances rather than bring the ball down for a shot that Edwin van der Sar palmed spectacularly away.

The killer blow came when Jose Reina spilled a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick for substitute O'Shea to blast home from close range.

But Kuyt says: "We showed we are better than them, so it was very disappointing to lose like that.

"I feel that they will now win the title. They have shown that they are the best in this competition.

"But when you are going to be champions, you need luck as well, and that is what they had against us.

"But for us to lose like that will bring the players closer together because we know we deserved more."

Jamie Carragher, tremendous at the back, spelled out Liverpool's objectives. He said: "The way to make the next step up for us is buying better players, all over the pitch. Hopefully not a centre-back!"

That is for the future, though, and boss Rafael Benitez is determined to raise spirits for the Barcelona clash.

Benitez said: "In the first-half it was very close, but after the break we had more of the play and they were not really attacking us.

"But when you can't score you should be careful against a big club like United.

"I don't know whether Reina is anyway to blame (for United's goal), sometimes it is concentration but sometimes it is just luck.

"We were down afterwards, but we will be very positive and train hard now with Tuesday in mind. We know we deserved to win.

"We attacked and controlled the game. We were even able to control the counter-attack. But it comes down to maybe one player, their skill, and the delivery of a free-kick."

He added: "But we know that if we have half chances in matches like this, we have to score. Then it would not matter what happened in the last minutes.

"But we did not make many clear chances, and that was a problem for us.

"I do not think Peter worried about his broken nose with that late chance. Maybe he should have gone with his head, but in the end there were others who should have taken their chances.

"We have shown we are not too far behind United. They are top and winning lots of away games, but we deserved to win."

Now Liverpool must turn their frustrations into a decisive performance against Barcelona.

Benitez said: "We must get this out of our heads and start thinking about beating Barcelona.

"I do not feel it will be difficult to raise our players for the Barcelona game. We must be ready and positive, and we must remember that we were better than United for a long time.

"We knew that these few days would define our season, now we have lost one and have Barcelona now. We must realise what possibilities we now have in the Champions League.

"The best thing now is to concentrate on Barcelona and how we are going to reach the quarter-finals."

And the title? Benitez believes it will go to United now.

He said: "United are really close now. Chelsea are a good team but in their situation they cannot make any mistakes."

Rafa rues lack of luck

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez struggled to arrive at an explanation for his side's defeat to Manchester United, after John O'Shea's injury time winner stole the spoils at Anfield.

The home side dominated large spells of the second half after an evenly fought first, with United rarely looking like scoring before O'Shea's late intervention.

Ahead of Liverpool's UEFA Champions League clash with Barcelona on Tuesday, Benitez conceded he was bitterly disappointed about the manner in which the weekend had unfolded.

"I would have trouble explaining how we lost that in Spanish; in English I find it almost impossible," said Benitez.

"We dominated the game, were in control and had plenty of attacks. Sometimes football is all about luck. When you have so much of the play and make chances without scoring, you must be careful against a team as good as United.

"United have a great defence and a fine goalkeeper. He stopped one from Peter Crouch at the end everyone felt was going in. But although we had so much of the game, we did not make too many chances.

"The decision to disallow Craig Bellamy's effort in the first half for offside was right. It just was not our day."

Fergie delight at 'massive' win

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could barely contain his glee after watching his side grind out a 'massive' result
at Anfield.

Despite being under pressure for most of the second half, as Liverpool turned the screw on home soil, it was United that forged a 12-point advantage over Chelsea at the Premiership summit thanks to John O'Shea's last minute intervention.

Just as they did last week against Fulham, United secured a victory from a game in which they were far from at their best and Ferguson was willing to acknowledge Liverpool were the superior side on the day.

"It was a fantastic result," he told Sky Sports. "We had a lot of narrow escapes and Liverpool upset our rhythm.

"They will feel very unlucky and they deserve to. It is a massive result for us. We broke away late on against Fulham and scored and now we`ve done it here.

"We`ve had that bit of luck in the last two weeks but you need luck if you are to win titles.

"There is a 12-point difference but I don`t think anything is impossible in modern-day football. In 1998 we had a great lead going into an Arsenal match but we had some terrible injuries.

"The pool then was nothing like as strong as it is today though. That helps us."

United's win was tempered by Paul Scholes' late red card for a swing at Xabi Alonso and an injury that forced Wayne Rooney off with a gashed knee and Ferguson admitted it was a double blow to contend with.

"I`m not sure what happened with Scholes but it`s a disappointment for us," he concluded.

"It looks like a knee injury (to Rooney) but we`ll have to see tomorrow."

Last gasp United steal spoils

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

If Premiership titles are won by grinding out results without playing well then this could just be Manchester United's year as they escaped from Anfield with a three point haul, courtesy of a 1-0 victory over a Liverpool side that bossed the whole of
the second half.

The most intriguing aspects of a game that was more mediocre than magnificent all occurred in the final few minutes, as United cemented a 12 point advantage over Chelsea thanks to substitute John O'Shea's winner in injury-time.

It was another substitute, this time Liverpool's Peter Crouch that just moments before was denied by a world class save, as Edwin Van der Sar sprawled across his goal to produce a title winning intervention.

United's afternoon was tempered somewhat when with five minutes remaining Paul Scholes lost his head in swinging but missing with an air punch in the direction of Xabi Alonso, that culminated in not quite a knock-out but a red card nevertheless.

The first half was a game of chess, albeit of a more robust variety than which Mr Kasparov is accustomed, with both sides nip and tuck in the opening sparring that only sporadically showed genuine quality.

As is so often the case in the North West's most fiercely contested derby chances were at a premium, at least in comparison with tackles, as Patrice Evra set the tone in just the second minute in going through the back of Steven Gerrard.

With temperatures raised Craig Bellamy had the first sniff of goal moments later but Van der Sar was alive to the scent and was out smartly to defend with his feet.

Daniel Agger's jackhammer of a left foot sent a drive from a full 35-yards searing over the top, before on the counter, Cristiano Ronaldo dragged his snapshot wide on the turn. As United began to settle into a semi-rhythm Ronaldo again was presented with a sight at goal from Henrik Larsson's sumptuous flick but it was a similar outcome as the Portuguese shot over.

Liverpool's main avenue in an attacking sense came through moving Nemanja Vidic from the centre, where he excels, to out wide, where he looked cumbersome against Craig Bellamy's lively forays down the right.

It was from one such raid that Bellamy disposed a ponderous Vidic before from the by-line delivering a ball across goal that was just too heavy for Dirk Kuyt. While it was United that perhaps used possession more intelligently, it was Liverpool that continued to go closest to opening the scoring as John Arne Riise hit a free-kick just wide, despite the presence of a wall that broke all records in terms of proximity to the ball without being penalised.

The final action of the half saw Jamie Carragher demonstrate a remarkable determination with a fine piece of defending that denied first Ronaldo and then a subdued Wayne Rooney in quick succession.

Whatever was said in the home side's dressing room clearly had a galvanising effect for it was Liverpool that came out the bolder and more inventive in their play. Barely had a minute passed when Steven Gerrard hurriedly controlled and volleyed high when he could have struck first time and then Bellamy spurned a presentable opening.

Kuyt's beautifully disguised pass was perfectly weighted into the path of his partner, but the Welshman's touch was heavy, meaning his second was off-balance as Van der Sar was forced into a comfortable stop.

Bellamy's next contribution was more assured as he put the ball into United's net, only to have his celebrations curtailed by a sharp sighted linesman who made the correct call.

United's own attacking efforts looked positively limp in comparison as first Larsson, making his last Premiership appearance being seemingly heading back to Helsingborgs, was replaced by Louis Saha and then more worrying was the sight of Rooney leaving the field with a badly gashed knee, courtesy of Carragher's high challenge.

Prior to this and Riise again showed the full venom of his left foot with a drive from distance that dipped just over, as United toiled manfully but showed little of the chutzpah that has propelled them to the summit.

Saha called for a penalty as he tumbled in the box as Agger took his standing foot but it would have been cruel on a Liverpool side that were the brighter throughout the second 45 minutes.

Liverpool's effort were, though, to prove all in vain as the final stages brought the most dramatic of climaxes as O'Shea inscribed his name in derby day folklore.

Ronaldo's fizzing free-kick brought only an unconvincing parry from an unsighted Jose Reina and from the rebound the Irishman secured certainly the three points; and most likely the title.

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Thor Zakariassen ©