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