After The Match 


Liverpool-Sunderland 2-0 (0-0)      3.3.09                           PL
Goals: Ngog (52), Benayoun (65)
Team: Reina, Mascherano, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Benayoun, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera, Ngog, Kuyt
Subs: Lucas (Ngog 70), Babel (Gerrard 82), El Zhar (Benayoun 90)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Aurelio
Yellow: Ngog (16)                  Whitehead 90
Red: None
Referee: M Halsey
Attendance: 41.587


Shots on target: 8-2
Shots off target: 13-4
Blocked shots: 10-1
Fouls conceded: 10-6
Corners: 7-2
Offsides: 2-2
Possession: 63.2-36.8
Yellow: 1-1

HEADLINES "The reaction of the players was very good."
Rafael Benitez
0403: Mascherano praise for Ngog
0403: A sense of relief - but
          Liverpool FC must get ruthless

0403: Torment of what ifs even in routine win
0303: Rafa hails Reds reaction
0303: Black Cats prove a lucky omen for Liverpool

Mascherano praise for Ngog

By James Carroll - Shanklygates

Javier Mascherano believes David Ngog has a bright future ahead of him at Anfield after the rookie striker netted his first Premier League goal for Liverpool in Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Sunderland.

In his first league start at Anfield, the Frenchman opened the scoring after 52 minutes to cap an encouraging performance from the 19-year-old.

"It was very important for David to score because he is a young player and this goal will give him more confidence," Mascherano told the Liverpool Echo.

"You can see in every training session that he is working very hard and when he is given his chance in the team he has to try and take it and by scoring a goal and doing a good job for the team he can be happy with his performance.

"It is really good for him and I am very happy for him because he deserved his goal."

The victory over Sunderland has taken Liverpool to within four points of Manchester United at the top of the table, although the leaders have two games in hand, and Mascherano admits it was important for the Reds claim the win and attempt to banish some of the memories of Saturday's demoralising defeat at Middlesbrough.

The midfielder, who was deployed in an unfamiliar right-back role on Tuesday, acknowledges it will be difficult to oust United from top spot, but insists Rafael Benitez's side will attempt to do all they canuntil the end of the season.

"Obviously we were really disappointed with the result at Middlesbrough and we knew that we needed to win against Sunderland," said the Argentine international.

"We are not as close to Man United as we would like to be but we have to carry on fighting to see what happens.

"There is no point in looking at the standings in the league table, all we can do is concentrate on every game, try to win them and then see what happens.

"We had some chances in the first half but could not score and maybe the supporters and ourselves were a little bit nervous because in the last game we could not take our chances.

"This made it important that we scored in the second half because we knew this would help the team to play well and allow the people to go home happy.

"It was an important victory for us and we are still fighting. At the time being we are fighting for second place with Chelsea and after that we will see what happens."

A sense of relief - but
Liverpool FC must get ruthless

Comment by Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo

If anything there is a sense of some relief today after the victory over Sunderland.

Getting three points was all that mattered after what has happened to our league hopes since the turn of the year - and the defeat to Middlesbrough.

Everyone has been feeling as flat as a pancake and it showed last night. The atmosphere seemed very sombre and it was a night when the players probably needed to give the fans a lift.

Ultimately that happened with the goals coming in the second half at the Kop end. But for a long time before it was very frustrating, pedestrian stuff the Reds played.

Sunderland look a poor team and we should be looking to put a bagful of goals past a side like this from the word go.

OK they had a gilt-edged chance early on which Kenwyne Jones should have scored from but after that they offered nothing.

Yet instead of getting at them and putting them under real pressure, we started passing the ball around sideways and backwards.

In that first half it was too often possession without purpose and at the interval you wondered whether Sunderland’s name would be added to the likes of Hull, Stoke, Fulham and Wigan - lesser sides who have all taken a point from Anfield this season to hit our title hopes.

But that said there were positives on show from which we can take some heart.

I like the look of left back, Emiliano Insua, and though it was strange to see Javier Mascherano at right back, he did a fine job.

Yossi Benayoun has been in probably the best form of his time yet at Anfield and had a very good game, while David Ngog up front really gave it a go and got his goal.

We’ve seen very little of the young French striker but he gave everything he had and showed some nice touches too. I was pleased for him when he scored at the Kop end on his home league debut because he deserved it.

I just wish it had been part of a much more flattering scoreline.

But let’s hope the result has given our great club the lift it has sorely needed - and that we can go on and start becoming much more ruthless with opponents over the rest of the season.

Torment of what
ifs even in routine win

By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

So the torment goes on for Liverpool’s supporters. After the weekend pain at the Riverside, Rafael Benitez’s side delivered their fans a huge dollop of frustration last night.

The Anfield outfit secured only their third league victory in eight games with a deserved triumph against Sunderland.

This was that rare breed; a relatively comfortable home league win. But the fact the final whistle was met with only muted cheers demonstrated the overriding emotion from Liverpool supporters that this was too little, too late.

The shameful surrender at Middlesbrough on Saturday had realistically ended any hopes of the title and consigned Benitez’s side to a three-way scrap for second place behind Manchester United.

At least Liverpool’s players responded to the call from their manager for a reaction to that Riverside debacle.

David Ngog marked his first Anfield league start by opening his Premier League account in the 52nd minute to end a stubborn Sunderland resistance.

The 19-year-old Frenchman then turned provider 13 minutes later when, aided by an error from Black Cats goalkeeper Marton Fulop, Yossi Benayoun followed on from his goalscoring heroics at the Bernabeu to double the advantage.

But even in victory, Liverpool highlighted some of the shortcomings that have debilitated their title challenge since the turn of the year.

They certainly made hard work of it before Ngog’s opener, once again hampered by the inability to turn decent early possession into tangible reward.

Anyone requiring any evidence of how Benitez’s side have struggled to break down teams at Anfield need only consider this statistic: Liverpool have now scored just seven first-half goals in their last 15 home league games.

Benitez cannot afford to let his team’s domestic campaign to fizzle out, particularly with a revived Chelsea on the march. Automatic qualification to the Champions League is a bare minimum.

Although Sunderland hover precariously above the relegation zone, the Wearsiders have become a much sterner proposition with Ricky Sbragia at the helm, losing only three of 11 games since his appointment, the most recent of which was a goalless draw at Arsenal.

Not surprisingly, the dismal weekend showing at Middlesbrough prompted Benitez to once more ring the changes.

But eyebrows were certainly raised at the inclusion of Javier Mascherano marking his 50th league appearance by operating at right-back, underlining the paucity of senior options available to Liverpool with Alvaro Arbeloa sidelined.

Mascherano, one of the few players to emerge with any semblance of credit at the weekend, took to the task manfully and continued his upturn in form of recent weeks.

On the other defensive flank, Emiliano Insua returned for his first outing since a promising run of games was interrupted by international duty with Argentina in the South American Under-20 Championships.

Insua picked up where he left off with a fine performance to demonstrate that there is one full-back position in which Benitez possesses strength in depth.

Yet the evening could have been hugely different had Sunderland not spurned a gilt-edged chance inside the fourth minute.

Kenwyne Jones turned away from Jamie Carragher on the halfway line and then beat Martin Skrtel with a neat piece of skill to move clear on goal, only to sidefoot his shot too close to Pepe Reina before Liverpool scrambled the ball clear. The visitors would not come as close again.

Ngog brought some zip to the attack alongside Dirk Kuyt but Liverpool found clear openings hard to find against a well-drilled Sunderland backline that showed why they had conceded just three times in their previous six games.

Kuyt saw an angled effort clutched by Fulop before narrowly failing to reach a Benayoun cross from the right on a rare occasion Liverpool opened up the visitors’ defence.

Riera, who had a decent seventh-minute shout for a penalty after Tal Ben Haim handled his goalbound shot inside the area, came closest in the first half, his rare right-footed shot deflecting off the sliding Grant Leadbitter to force Fulop into a good low save.

Fulop was somewhat less conventional moments afterwards when he appeared poised to head clear a rising Mascherano drive before allowing the ball to drift over the bar, the Argentine later ruffling the sidenetting with another effort.

With Anfield fearing another stalemate, Liverpool eventually found a way through the massed Sunderland ranks seven minutes after the interval, Riera finally getting in behind Ben Haim and delivering a deep cross which was headed back across goal by Steven Gerrard for Ngog to turn in from eight yards.

Ngog is a raw talent that requires nurturing, but Benitez will hope the immediate confidence boost of this performance can help the youngster shoulder some of the striking burden with Fernando Torres injured and Robbie Keane long departed.

Riera, warming to his task, then released an overlapping Insua down the left but the full-back seemed in two minds about whether to pass or shoot and ended up dragging the ball harmlessly across the face of goal.

Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse emerged as a substitute for Sunderland to applause from the home supporters following his efforts in helping win the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup the following year, when he scored in the final against West Ham in Cardiff.

But the home side extended their advantage on 65 minutes when Ngog’s overhead kick into the danger zone was fumbled by Fulop and the impressive Benayoun was on hand to prod home.

And the final winning margin could have been greater, Riera and Gerrard both striking shots over before substitutes Lucas and Nabil El Zhar each came close as Sunderland wilted in the final quarter.

Liverpool’s next Premier League assignment is at Old Trafford on Saturday week.

And no matter what the outcome, the agony is likely to be prolonged for their supporters.

Rafa hails Reds reaction

By Joe Curran - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez today heaped praise on his Liverpool charges after bouncing back from Saturday's defeat to Middlesbrough with a convincing 2-0 victory over Sunderland at Anfield.

David Ngog finished off an excellent attacking move from close range on 51 minutes before Yossi Benayoun headed home from a weak Marton Fulop save to seal the comfortable victory over Ricky Sbragia's men 14 minutes later.

Benitez told reporters after the match that the win was the perfect tonic to lift the players' confidence and said: "Clearly after the defeat of the other day it was very important to get three points and try to play a good game.

"It was difficult in the first half - they had a very good chance to go in front but after that we were keeping the ball and the game became more open after we scored the goal in the second half.

"We needed to win because we knew that we were in a very good position before the Middlesbrough game. We were very disappointed after that defeat so we had to show a lot of character to win against Sunderland.

"I think that David Ngog did a very good job, he had a good game. Yossi Benayoun also played well and Pepe Rein was also very important for us when he saved early on in the game.

"But the whole team was always trying to pass the ball, we were very well organised. They were very good on the counter attack so we had to keep calm - we created a lot of chances.

"The reaction of the players was very good."

With the Reds now lying four points behind league leaders Manchester United - who have played two less games, Benitez admitted he will be watching Alex Ferguson's men take on Newcastle United at St James' Park tomorrow and hoping for the Magpies to do them a favour.

"We have to approach each game with confidence and just think about ourselves," said Benitez.

"But it also depends on what happens with the other results and we have to wait and see what happens with United tomorrow.

"If United cannot win tomorrow then it will be very good for us, clearly it will be very good if Newcastle can win."

Black Cats prove
a lucky omen for Liverpool

By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports

Liverpool will welcome Real Madrid to an impenetrable Anfield fortress after they beat Sunderland 2-0 on Tuesday.

The Reds have not lost at home all season and, with the league title now a distant hope, they at least made sure they rediscovered a goalscoring touch ahead of their Champions League assault as David N’Gog and Yossi Benayoun secured a deserved victory.

Sunderland arrived on Merseyside having never won at Anfield in The Premier League, yet they looked like they might claim a draw as Liverpool struggled for first-half thrust ahead of their second leg with Real Madrid.

Rafa Benitez’s pre-match rallying cry challenged his players to earn their place in that Madrid clash and you can imagine he reiterated those same words at half time – which saw a rejuvenated Red army attack The Kop in the second half.

If anybody had wanted a encapsulation of Liverpool’s season, the first half against Sunderland was an extremely accurate example.

Working from back to front, the excellent Pepe Reina started behind a back four that looked solid for 44 minutes.

However, it is that other elusive minute that has cost Liverpool so often this season, like it did in the first half at Middlesbrough at the weekend, and only Kenwyne Jones knows how he failed to make The Reds pay this time.

Maybe he wasn’t expecting to be bearing down on The Kop inside the opening three minutes. With Jamie Carragher AWOL and Martin Skrtel lightweight in his defensive effort, Jones ran clear from halfway. Carragher begged Reina to come charging from his goal but the Spaniard is one of the world’s best keepers…he played the mind games…Jones lost.

Looking ahead to the midfield and Liverpool dominated the ball, plotting their way to the penalty area almost at will. They have done all season. With Xabi Alonso prompting and Steven Gerrard driving, and Yossi Benayoun providing the nice touches, The Reds’ midfield always looks powerful – but where would the end product come from?

Dirk Kuyt’s build-up play was significantly more elegant than it usually is, twice providing clever flicks in the opening 15 minutes, but both times there was nobody to convert the final cross from the right flank.

Not helping The Reds’ cause was Sunderland’s bravery in defence. When Albert Riera volleyed from the edge of the box Tal Ben Haim was there. When the Spaniard again cut onto his right, Grant Leadbitter got enough of a deflection to allow Marton Fulop to save smartly at the near post.

Sunderland were playing with confidence, none more so than Fulop himself, who unbelievably opted to duck under Javier Mascherano’s 25-yard rasper, getting his angles spot on as the ball skimmed the bar.

Mascherano was providing plenty of energy down the right, as you would expect, and it was he who had the final effort of yet another frustrating 45 minutes at Anfield, ruffling the side-netting after Gerrard’s snappy tackle set Liverpool on the front foot.

Half time arrived. Upon re-emergence, Steven Gerrard went round every player, demanding more from his troops, demanding that they did not settle for what had fast become the status quo at Anfield – in short…a goalless draw.

Within five minutes they responded.

Inspired by the wing play of Riera and the trademark drive of Gerrard, it was the unassuming N’Gog who lifted the pressure around Anfield. Riera deserved the majority of the credit, hitting the byline and lofting a measured cross to the back post, where Gerrard steamed in to head back across goal for N’Gog to convert from close range.

For what seemed like the first time in the match The Kop sang, Liverpool’s players responded… The Reds did go marching in. Riera was growing in confidence and this time he provided a lovely slide-rule ball for Emiliano Insua to run onto…the Argentinean’s got a lovely left foot but he dragged wide when he should have scored.

Moments later Sunderland had one small window to hit back…they didn’t…and Liverpool put the game to bed.

Steed Malbranque was the guilty party for The Black Cats, firing wastefully over after being left all alone at the back post, and within minutes the ball was in the back of the Sunderland net for a second time.

N’Gog will claim the assist after an ambitious overhead kick, but Liverpool’s big thank-you belongs to keeper Fulop, who unnecessarily parried straight to Benayoun for an easy five-yard tap-in.

Liverpool hadn’t enjoyed a two-goal cushion at Anfield since December (if you bear in mind their second against Chelsea came deep in injury time), confidence suddenly filtered through their attacking play. Alonso burst towards The Kop, laid back for Riera, who cut inside onto his right and fired over with the goal at his mercy.

Substitutes Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel both had chances to extend the lead before the end, but for now Liverpool will gratefully accept the sweet taste of victory – their first at Anfield for a month.

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