Anfield becoming drunk
on Benitez's special brew
By Andy Huter - Daily Post
WIithout the self-importance or the sour grapes,
Rafael Benitez is the perfect antidote to the 'special
one' - but Liverpool have themselves a special one
Jose Mourinho lost not only the first semi-final of his
managerial career at a frenzied Anfield on Tuesday, but
a care-fully manufactured aura of invincibility.
With one more triumphant performance from Liverpool on
May 25, he will also lose the honour of being the only
manager besides Bob Paisley to win the UEFA Cup and
European Cup in successive years.
His Iberian conqueror Benitez is within touching
distance of that remarkable feat following the
unforgettable events of this week's Champions League
semi-final second leg.
Only a few months ago there was open disbelief at such
an achievement within Anfield itself. Now there is only
absolute faith in the fates that have carried Liverpool
this far and will see them claim a fifth European Cup
exactly 28 years to the day of their first if they
triumph in Istanbul.
The winners mentality Benitez has infused throughout
Anfield is paying off and, though the nerve-shredding
events of Tuesday, this Premier-ship campaign and his
fierce work ethic suggest otherwise, he has made the
journey to the greatest stage appear almost effortless.
How Sir Alex Ferguson must be suffering now.
The Manchester United manager made it his public
intention to knock Liverpool off their perch and
Yet in just nine months Benitez has produced as many
European Cup final appearances for Liverpool as Ferguson
has in 19 years and 11 Champions League campaigns at Old
Now he just needs to win it of course, and with a full
10 days to prepare his squad for the Turkish showdown -
the longest time he has spent uninterrupted with his
players all season - Benitez will have no reason to fear
"I am delighted for Rafa, absolutely delighted," said
chief executive Rick Parry yesterday.
"He deserves it more than anyone for the hard work he
has put in and the ups and downs he has had to cope with
this season. He has been through a lot this season, but
if anything he has thrived on the challenge of
everything that has happened.
"I am pleased for the players as well. They were
Parry admits Benitez ticked every box when they were
looking for the right man to replace Gerard Houllier
last year, and it says everything about the Liverpool
manager's ability to adapt that eight of Tuesday's
starting line-up were bought by his predecessor.
There was only one Benitez signing in from the start
against Chelsea, and he scored the winner. Well, he
Anfield's chief executive added: "I don't think we have
been surprised in what Rafa has done because of the
credentials he has.
"We knew the qualities we wanted our manager to have
and he fits them all.
"We are talking about hunger, knowledge, determination,
skill. He is a top coach and has everything that you
want. But above all he is a winner and that is crucially
important and that is rubbing off.
"This can be just the start of things under Rafa. We
never ever viewed his appointment as a gamble, simply
because he stood to everything we were looking for last
"He has a proven track record and reputation. Winning
one of the major leagues in the world twice in the face
of competition from Real Madrid and Barcelona is no mean
"But Rafa is young and hungry. He wants to take the club
places and we didn't want to bring someone in who saw
Liverpool as a way of earning his pension.
"He lives and breathes football and he is a humble,
genuinely nice guy. But someone who won't shy away from
making decisions. He is definitely in the 'Liverpool
Benitez has also been hailed as the world's greatest
manager by the men he will turn into Liverpool legends
with victory at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium next month.
The magical touch that won two La Liga titles and the
UEFA Cup in the three years with Valencia has now
revived the fortunes of one great institution and the
careers of several play-ers.
The rejuvenated John Arne Riise said: "Rafa is the
best manager in the world, tactically he is
"So many times he judges things perfectly and the way he
prepares and picks the team gives us a lot of
"I know the players want to play for him and he deserves
a lot of credit for what he has done in his first season
"Everybody knows the system, what they are supposed to
be doing and where they should be. He tells us all in
great detail how he wants us to play and we just try to
carry out those instructions.
"Over the whole season we have learned a lot and we
can't wait for next season now. We have every confidence
that we can go to Istanbul to win the trophy. We have
beaten some great teams and we can do it again."
Mourinho may have felt he had that title under wraps
before being out-thought by Benitez in both legs of
their exhausting semi-final.
But for the victorious Liverpool players there is no
doubt who deserved the spoils of victory.
Dietmar Hamann said: "It was a great triumph for the
manager. To reach the Champions League final in his
first season here is very special, and he is special,
and we are looking forward to the final now."
And Sami Hyypia, again outstanding against Chelsea,
added: "He's a great manager. He's made us better as a
team as well as individually better.
Tactically, he's very strong and very strict. If
somebody does not do something he likes he tells us
straight away and corrects it. He's a very demanding
manager and everybody at the club wants to play for
Riise also paid tribute to the Liverpool fans, adding:
"The atmosphere was fantastic.
"The fans never stopped singing all night and we felt
that we had to give them something back. Now they have a
final to look forward to and I hope they enjoy it.
"Chelsea may be the best team in the league over the
whole season because they are champions, but we have
been the best team over the two legs of the semi-final,
whatever Jose Mourinho says."
The atmosphere on Tuesday night has already taken its
place in Anfield folklore.
And Parry admits: "I suppose the last game is always the
best, but I was here for St Etienne in '77 and the
atmosphere was better than that.
"The noise was just incessant. I thought that it would
take something to beat the atmosphere generated against
Juventus, but there was never a lull, never a silence."
Confidence, not surprisingly, is flooding through the
Liverpool camp now as they prepare for the club's sixth
European Cup final.
Milan Baros said: "I have never felt an atmosphere
like we all experienced at Anfield, now we are confident
of lifting the trophy because we play well in the
"The supporters deserved that.
"We will enjoy being in the final and we will have a
couple of days off now to let it all sink in.
"As for the goal, all I can remember is getting to
Stevie's (Gerrard) pass before Petr Cech and knocking it
past him before I was flattened.
"I didn't really see whether the ball went over the line
but the linesman was right there and he gave it, that's
all that matters.
"It was a great start for us. We felt we had it won
after just four minutes because the first goal was going
to be so important. But there was still a lot of hard
work to do."
And Benitez, who will not be satisfied whatever the
outcome on May 25, is just the man to do it.
Hansen: Carra's 10 times better than I was
By Paul Rogers - LFC Official Website
Anfield legend Alan Hansen might be considered the
greatest ever defender to pull on a Red shirt by
Liverpool fans all over the world but the
captain-turned-pundit believes that even in his prime,
he was nowhere near as good as Jamie Carragher.
The Bootle-born defender has been nothing short of
sensational all season in terms of consistency and after
helping hold Chelsea at bay for over 186 minutes, Hansen
claims Carragher must now be held up as a true legend of
"The outstanding performer for me on Tuesday night was
Jamie Carragher at the heart of the Liverpool defence,"
says Hansen. "Carragher is 10 times a better defender
than I could ever be. He is a completely different
player. He is a great defender whereas I was not.
"My strengths were on the ball, positional sense and
recovery pace. The way he held Chelsea at bay was
unbelievable. I'm sitting there in awe of how many times
he intercepted, blocked and covered. I think if we look
at Liverpool greats over the years - and there have been
a lot of them - Carragher is up there with the best of
"When you play in big games like this it is a
pressurised situation. You learn to play under the
pressure and that certainly improves your game.
"We've seen that at Chelsea with Frank Lampard and John
Terry. It improved them and now it is improving
"He is absolutely relishing the big-match atmosphere.
Jamie has always been Mr Consistency but this season he
has been amazing in that department and in the games
against Juventus and Chelsea he has elevated himself to
hero status. He deserves all that praise."
Gerrard: We can be legends
By Alex Livie - Sky Sports
Steven Gerrard has told Sky Sports News that the
Liverpool players are determined to secure legendary
status at Anfield by lifting the UEFA Champions League
Liverpool booked their place in the final in Istanbul
with a thrilling win over Premiership champions Chelsea
at Anfield on Tuesday.
Gerrard was one of the key performers in the win over
the Blues and he is aware the players have the chance to
claim their own piece of Anfield history with victory
over Italian titans Milan.
"We have been disappointing domestically but we have a
chance to make history and become legends at the
football club and we want to grab that," Gerrard told
Sky Sports News.
Gerrard says many at the club are still in shock about
reaching the final of Europe's premier club competition.
"I don't think any of the players or anyone connected
with the club thought about that (reaching the final),"
"We have been underdogs from the start, there were some
fantastic teams in the competition, but we have produced
some great form in the Champions League."
Gerrard is aware that facing Carlo Ancelotti's Milan,
who scraped past PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, will be
"It will be a tough match," he added. "We will be up for
it and fight hard and hopefully bring the cup back for
the Liverpool fans."
Some Liverpool fans have accused Jose Mourinho of sour
grapes for pointing to the controversial nature of Luis
Garcia's goal as the defining moment in the match, but
Gerrard believes the Portuguese tactician and his
players deserve credit for the way they took the defeat.
"It was nice to see the Chelsea players and the manager
congratulate us and I thought they took the defeat
really well," added Gerrard.
Gerrard has been linked with a move to Chelsea, but he
says no decision on his future will be made until after
the trip to Turkey.
"I have two years to run on the four-year deal I signed
and the plan was always to talk after two years," added
"My agent and I will sit down with the manager and Rick
Parry after the Champions League final and we will
can't buy fans like ours
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Chelsea may have the money to sign any player in the
world, but Jamie Carragher believes last night's
brilliant victory owed a lot to Liverpool's
Anfield rocked like never before as Luis Garcia's goal
settled the contest in the home side's favour and
secured the club's first European Cup final appearance
in twenty years.
Carragher said he knew the Anfield atmosphere would be
awesome, but even he was left searching for the right
words to adequately describe the backing the players
received from the stands last night.
"Chelsea have bought great players and have an excellent
manager, but you can't buy fans like ours," said
"That atmosphere was better than anything I've known and
I've been involved in some great nights recently. The
games against Roma, Juventus and Olympiakos were
unbelievable, but that was something else.
"Even when we were warming-up 40 minutes before the
game, the crowd was as noisy as it's been for a long
time. Normally you can hear DJ George playing his
records, but even he was drowned out by the singing. We
knew then it was going to be a special night.
"We all knew what it was going to be like and it gave us
a hell of a boost.
"No disrespect to Chelsea, but their supporters aren't
like ours. We've got a working class support while the
majority of fans at the game last week are probably a
bit more well-to-do.
"In my opinion, clubs which have that traditional core
of working class fans are always going to be more
passionate about football. They get involved in the game
a lot more and create a much better atmosphere.
"I'm not trying to be disrespectful to them when I say
that, I think it's just a fact which is proven by other
grounds across the country, and there's none better than
our fans or Anfield on a European night."
Liverpool restricted Chelsea to very few chances on the
night, but did have to survive a nervy finish when Eidur
Gudjohnsen smashed the ball wide of goal in the final
"The most worrying part was the six minutes of
injury-time, but I think the referee is a mate of
Mourinho's and hecertainly gave them plenty of
extra-time to get an equaliser," added Carragher.
"I don't think it's right to say we didn't deserve to
win. Over the two games there weren't many chances for
both sides. Last night Chelsea only had a free-kick from
Lampard and the shot at the end from Gudjohnson.
"When you consider what a great side they are, how
expensive their squad is and the fact they've just won
the Premiership, I think all the credit deserves to go
to us for limiting them to a few shots.
"We're in the final because over two games, that's where
we deserve to be.
"The scenes at the end were superb, but we all realise
we haven't won anything yet.
"There's one more game left to win. I don't care who we
play. It's going to be tough, but now we want to make
sure we use this win as the platform to win the whole
Carragher inspires Liverpool
By Matt Majendie - BBC Sport Online
At the final whistle at Anfield on Tuesday, there was
no doubting the difference between a trip to Istanbul
for the Champions League final and a missed opportunity
The 27-year-old was an unbreakable force in defence,
throwing himself into every challenge and marking Didier
Drogba out of the game.
It came painfully close to coming off the rails in
injury time but he just deflected Eidur Gudjohnsen's
Gerrard described Carragher as "immense" and
"unbelievable" after the match.
Carragher was equally in awe of his team-mate and must
be aware how crucial the win may be to Gerrard staying
in the red of Liverpool next season.
Should Gerrard turn down uprooting to the capital,
Carragher could prove the deciding factor.
While many were surprised the underdogs had overcome a
team 33 points ahead of them in the Premiership, for
Carragher it was nothing new.
First-team games: 357
First-team goals: Two
International caps: 17
The Bootle-born stopper has always just gone about his
business without much fuss or praise - very much the
And even this season, when he has clearly had his best
year yet, he is deemed at best England's fourth-best
Modest to the core, he credits manager Rafael Benitez
and the players around him for his improvements.
Benitez deserves at least some credit; while Gerard
Houllier often played Carragher in the centre of
defence, his new manager has played him there full time.
That decision looks to have given a player certain to be
named captain if Gerrard jumps ship great confidence.
He may not quite grab the headlines in the same way
Gerrard does, but it is worth noting he was the fans'
player of the season last year and must be a strong
contender to double up a year on.
One fan on the 606 messageboards, appropriately-named
Carradona, was in awe of him after Tuesday.
"What an absolute legend, I'm confident we would have
conceded three if it wasn't for him," said Carradona.
"He is an absolutely brilliant player."
Much of the praise has been of the centre back's
Even the man himself admitted in a recent interview:
"I've moved on from the scallywag I once was and matured
a little bit."
That's not to say the humour's gone.
He is set to marry his partner Nicola on 1 July. But
when asked if fans could expect to see wedding pictures
in a glossy magazine, he quipped: "Nah. I've sold my
wedding pictures to The Kop magazine for a pound".
Carragher is Liverpool to the core, the very essence of
the city and 100% committed to the club's cause.
While speculation still mounts over Gerrard's future,
Carragher is clearly going nowhere.
When asked about a possible move elsewhere, he said
simply: "I'd never do that."
Anfield fans can be assured he'll stick to that pledge.
right, says goal-row official
By Ed Holt in Slovakia and Wayne Veysey - Evening
Slovakian assistant referee Roman Slysko awarded the
controversial winner by Luis Garcia which sent newly
crowned Premiership champions Chelsea crashing out of
the competition on a night of incredible emotion at
Speaking today, he said he was happy he had made the
right call. "I believe that my decision was correct. My
first feeling and which I remain convinced of is that it
was a goal. I am 100 per cent convinced that it was a
"It was a very hard situation and in that kind of a
situation a person only has a few hundredths of a second
"From my information as well I understand that TV
replays have also not been able to prove that it was not
"I saw it clearly. In my view I was adequately
positioned for that situation."
The 31-year-old, a doctor by profession, added that even
though some people say that a goal in such an important
match should be proved beyond doubt "there will always
be those kind of situations in football matches
Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho described it as only
"50 per cent of a goal" and claimed the best side on the
night had lost.
Television replays were inconclusive and the row over
the goal is certain to reignite the debate over the use
of goalline technology.
But Chelsea skipper John Terry was adamant that Garcia's
goal should not have been allowed to stand.
"I couldn't tell from where I was but a few of the lads
said the ball didn't go over the line," he said.
"William Gallas was in the way of the ball from where
the linesman was but he gave it, which was a bad
"If you're not sure, then don't give a goal."
Striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, who missed a great chance to
win the tie for Chelsea in the dying minutes, added:
"I've been told by players who were closer than me that
it was very debatable.
"William Gallas had his body between the linesman and
the ball and I thought the official was in a very bad
position to judge it.
"It was a brave decision to give a goal without being
Benitez - the
They used to say that Brian Clough could walk on the
Trent - so maybe Rafael Benitez will soon be trying the
same trick on the Mersey.
The Spaniard arrived at Liverpool last June after
transforming Valencia into a team that could stand up to
the might of Real Madrid and Barcelona and win. Two La
Liga titles in three years was testimony to that.
What Benitez achieved in Spain was akin to the way Sir
Alex Ferguson broke the stranglehold of the Old Firm in
Scotland while he was at Aberdeen.
For Benitez to find himself being talked of in the same
breath as such football management greats as Clough and
Ferguson, frankly, says it all.
But Liverpool was a real challenge for a man with little
English and even less knowledge of the very special
world that is the Premiership.
Many feared for him, wondering just how he could turn
round the monster in distress that was Liverpool.
And Liverpool were a mess when he arrived - reeling from
the months of anger and frustration that led to the
downfall of Gerard Houllier and watching in dismay as
Chelsea spent Roman Abramovich's pocket money. Arsenal
and Manchester United also looked as far away as ever.
It seemed Liverpool were taking a downward step from
which they would never recover. They had finally been
beaten into submission by the new monied classes, to
whom legend and history meant nothing.
But Liverpool have now shown, because of Benitez's
stewardship, that their old ideals do mean something.
Those manic, passionate, defiant fans who turned Anfield
into a cauldron of noise against Chelsea, now adore
their Spanish boss.
He has failed to fully understand the frenetic pace of
the Premiership but put him on the European stage and
the genius is clear for all to see.
Jose Mourinho ended up putting on German centre-back
Robert Huth to play centre forward and opted for the
long ball in desperation. Benitez must have almost
laughed out loud at such tactical ineptitude.
The end product was that in one match, Benitez restored
Liverpool to their former place amongst Europe's elite.
British football's most successful club was almost on
its knees financially and mentally when Benitez arrived.
They had hung on grimly to the coat-tails of their
betters, refusing to accept that they were no longer a
serious player on the stage that mattered most.
Chelsea, bankrolled from near-administration to the
Premiership title in a couple of years, believed that
money bought everything.
But as those Liverpool fans last night showed, there is
more to football than money. Money, in the city of
Liverpool for sure, can't buy you love.
Liverpool's fans love their club, its traditions and the
pride and respect their football team of old once
brought to a poor, working-class city a million miles
away from the flash Cockneys of the Kings Road.
Benitez has shown that ordinary players with fitness,
organisation and belief can beat the best. They can
respond to the pleading from the terraces to "make us
dream" as a Kop banner announced.
The man looks like a Spanish insurance salesman. Portly,
calm, certainly not excitable, but meticulous in
preparation to the last detail.
There was nothing pretty about his tactics against
Chelsea. It was all about tackling, running and working
for a mutual cause.
If it had been an Italian team producing the display and
tactics Liverpool used against Chelsea, there would have
been plenty of knowing looks, nodding heads and grudging
praise for a professional job well done. There would not
have been any nonsense about "the best team lost" from
This is the same Mourinho whose Porto players seemed to
need little encouragement to go to ground during their
successful Champions League campaign last year.
Benitez gave Mourinho a lesson in top-quality European
tactics, and if he can just fashion those ideas to work
better in the Premiership, Liverpool could start to
become a force on their own patch rather than just the
rest of Europe.