After The Match 


Blackburn-Liverpool 0-0              5.12.09                           PL
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Benayoun, Lucas, Mascherano, Riera, Gerrard, Kuyt
Subs: Ngog (Riera 51), El Zhar (Benayoun72)
Not used: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Dossena
Yellow: Diouf (18)
Red: None
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 29.660
Shots on target: 2-2
Shots off target: 7-3
Blocked shots: 1-9
Fouls conceded: 15-10
Corners: 1-8
Offsides: 4-2
Possession: 40.5-59.5
Yellow: 1-0

to win
these types
of games."
Rafael Benitez
0712: Liverpool FC hit a new low -
          the graveyard slot of Match of the Day

0612: Johnson upset by 'ugly' Rovers
0512: Aquilani set for Viola start
0512: Allardyce rues Kalinic miss
0512: Benitez left frustrated
0512: Ngog goes close in Ewood bore draw 

Liverpool FC hit a new low -
the graveyard slot of Match of the Day

Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo

Out of the Champions League, floundering in the Premier League but now a new low in this season of woe – relegated to the graveyard slot
on Match of the Day.

Liverpool have become accustomed in recent years to having the majority of their games broadcast live and even when matches have kicked-off at the traditional 3pm on Saturday afternoon, extended highlights can be pretty much guaranteed.

Things, however, are changing. While the Reds’ trip to Blackburn was never going to command top billing in the weekend just gone, they can consider themselves fortunate that the ‘MOTD’ producers decided to give this fixture air time at all.

But should Liverpool keep playing like this in the future, they will have to get used to being shuffled down the pecking order as, ultimately, there were moments at Ewood Park when watching paint dry would have provided infinitely more entertainment.

Though it was never going to be a stroll against a side who pride themselves on being hard to beat and relish a physical battle, Liverpool ought to have seized the chance to maintain the momentum a derby day win had given them in the Ribble Valley.

In keeping with the way the past two months have gone, though, here was another missed opportunity, another hugely frustrating experience for Rafa Benitez, his players and supporters, another stuttering step.

While it is true to say Liverpool enjoyed the greater possession and threatened occasionally to break the deadlock, there can be no complaints that they returned to Merseyside with just a point.

Quite simply, they didn’t do enough to win the contest and the fact Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson was relatively untroubled during 90 humdrum minutes says everything you need to know about Liverpool’s shortcomings as an attacking force.

Yes, they could have emerged victorious and had Glen Johnson’s ball into David Ngog not taken an outrageous bobble as he shaped to shoot, there is reason to believe his effort would have whistled past Robinson rather than crashed off the crossbar.

“It was the worst bobble I’ve ever seen,” Johnson, who caught the eye once again, groaned. “Sometimes luck doesn’t go for you. We were pushing and pushing and it was so frustrating we couldn’t get that goal our play deserved.”

Still, for a side that has designs on reclaiming its place among the Champions League elite, it was nowhere near enough and you only have to compare Blackburn’s fortunes against the Reds’ biggest rivals this season to see their failings.

Arsenal thrashed them 6-2 at the Emirates Stadium in October, the same month that Chelsea put five unanswered goals past them at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United beat them 2-0 in a canter at Old Trafford.

Blackburn might epitomise obduracy on home turf – they have only been beaten twice at Ewood in the Premier League since Sam Allardyce took over as manager last December – but Liverpool should have had enough wit and wisdom to come out on top.

Or should they? This was largely the same side that had struggled to create clear chances at Goodison Park six days earlier and, if anything, it had more of an attacking lilt to it, as Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera came in for Ngog and Fabio Aurelio.

Yet Riera created little during the time he spent on the pitch and Benayoun – normally such a bright, busy, inventive figure – huffed and puffed to no avail, never moving with the élan that has graced his play this calendar year.

You may have thought, then, this would have been the ideal place to give Alberto Aquilani a lengthy run-out but, again, he spent his time shuffling up and down the touchline.

Had Benitez not come out afterwards and state emphatically Aquilani will start against Fiorentina on Wednesday, the conspiracy theorists would have had a field day and, in all probability, started asking serious questions.

Benitez attempted to explain last week why Aquilani has hitherto been a spectator, citing that his lack of fitness and match practice could ultimately prove detrimental to both team and player.

Of course, Benitez is right to protect a key asset and given Liverpool’s wretched luck with injuries this season, the last thing he wants is to pitch Aquilani in and see him either pull up lame or be on the receiving end of a juddering tackle that set him back.

Aquilani’s rehabilitation has clearly been more complicated than many have imagined but does there not come a point when the manager simply has to decide ‘enough is enough’ and he asks the graceful Italian to start making a difference?

Take a glance at the table; Liverpool have not been cut adrift in the race for a top four spot by any means and there is sufficient time for them to retrieve the situation.

That, sadly, is easier said than done and what concerns Liverpool fans most of all now is Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa don’t give the impression they are going to squander too many points.

To make inroads on those sides, Benitez needs to find a place in his team for Aquilani, he craves the return to fitness of Fernando Torres and needs others to take some of the match-winning responsibility off Steven Gerrard’s shoulders.

Liverpool’s talismanic captain did everything he could to mark his 500th appearance in the best possible way.

Unfortunately, his best was not good enough this time and Blackburn – for whom Ryan Nelson and Christopher Samba were outstanding – thoroughly deserved their point.

A Blackburn victory would, inevitably, have made bigger headlines and left those in charge at Match of the Day with a headache, as a ‘shock’ always demands a chunkier segment of the programme.

If Liverpool are to claim that place in the running order to which they are more accustomed, it is imperative they buck their ideas up; if they don’t, the end of season DVD risks being turned into a video nasty.

Johnson upset by 'ugly' Rovers

Sky Sports

Glen Johnson has vented his frustration at Liverpool's stalemate with Blackburn Rovers by branding Sam Allardyce's side's style of play as 'ugly'.

The Reds slipped further off the leading pack in the Premier League on Saturday as they could not find the back of the net in a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park.

Liverpool's French striker David Ngog wasted the best chance of a woeful match as he hit the bar from close range after being set up by Johnson.

The full-back, whose cross was arguably the only moment of brilliance, believed he and his team-mates deserved to win and is annoyed they failed to defeat Rovers.

Johnson said: "It's always difficult against Blackburn because they don't play much football and just launch the ball forward at every opportunity.

"They play an ugly game very well and play to their strengths. It makes life difficult for the opposition at times.

"We knew what to expect and we tried to get the ball down on the floor and play. The pitch wasn't great and we took a while to get used to it, but that's football and you have to live with things like this."

The England international added: "We deserved to win, especially after our second-half performance.

"I thought we'd scored when I crossed for David but the ball hit the worst bobble I've ever seen before his effort came back off the bar.

"Sometimes luck doesn't go for you but I thought we played the best football and did enough to win the game. We were pushing and pushing and it was so frustrating we couldn't get that goal our play deserved."

Aquilani set for Viola start

Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has revealed that Alberto Aquilani could make his long-awaited first start for against Fiorentina on Wednesday night.

Aquilani was once again an unused substitute in the goalless draw with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The Italian midfielder could now make his first start in Wednesday's Champions League clash with his countrymen Fiorentina with nothing at stake in the encounter.

"Maybe we will start with Aquilani in our next match because today was a very difficult and tough game," said Benitez. "But against Fiorentina maybe he will start.

"We were thinking of putting him on today but the game was too open. When a player isn't match fit, it is a risk to put him on the pitch. Maybe it would have been worse for him. At Anfield, with our fans behind him, I think it will be easier.

"It's also a question of the other players being injured. Gerrard was injured before and is fit now. With Gerrard, Lucas and Mascherano we now have balance in the midfield."

Aquilani has made just three substitute appearances since recovering from ankle surgery in the summer, but despite calls for the player to be included in his starting XI Benitez is refusing to rush the former Roma man

"He is a player who needs to settle down," added Benitez. "We are watching him in every training session and he is improving and doing well.

"He can only get match fitness by playing. We were hoping to play him in the reserves the other day but the game was postponed, so we have to carry on and then he will have a chance against Fiorentina."

Benitez also revealed Fernando Torres could return for the Fiorentina tie after recovering from a groin problem.

Allardyce rues Kalinic miss

ITV Football

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce could not resist a return to the dug-out and saw his team almost treat him to a victory over Liverpool.

Allardyce had spent much of the match in the directors' box following his heart surgery last week, but he ventured down to the dug-out for the closing minutes of the goalless Ewood Park clash.

He said: "I felt okay until the last few minutes, they were a heart-stopper.

"But in those minutes we could have won it. Nikola Kalinic was through, and should have at least got his effort on target. He was flattened by (Jose) Reina just outside the box, but he still should have rolled the shot on target.

"I was delighted with the way the team played. It has been a good week for us, beating Chelsea in the Carling Cup as well.

"Considering our lads had played two hours and then penalties in that match, and Liverpool didn't have a midweek game, I felt it was a great testimony to our fitness.

"We could easily have lost it in the second half, and I felt we deserved the bit of luck when (David) Ngog hit the bar.

"But there was also another chance we should have put away when Franco (Di Santo) was clear in the box. That is the difference between the big boys at the top and teams like us, they take those chances.

"But considering Liverpool are a great club, we restricted them to just that chance against the bar. As the game went on we put Keith Andrews on to man-mark Steven Gerrard, he was the best player out there.

"And that meant he could not get the space to produce a bit of magic to win it for them."

Benitez left frustrated

Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was left frustrated after his side were held to a goalless draw by Blackburn at Ewood Park.

The Reds dropped further behind the leading pack after seeing two points go begging as a result of the stalemate.

David Ngog had the best chance of a disappointing encounter midway through the second half when he saw his shot from Glen Johnson's cross come back off the underside of the crossbar.

Benitez was disappointed with the first half showing, but more happy with the second half display as Liverpool created more goalscoring opportunities, but to no avail in the end.

"I'm a little bit frustrated," said Benitez. "I felt we could win the game.

"In the first half we didn't play very well but it was a difficult match. They were very direct and we were expecting that.

"After that we changed it with Ngog in attack and Nabil (El Zhar). We were more dangerous and had chances to win. They also had two counter attacks which could have seen us lose. But I think the team played much better in the second half.

"It is a clean sheet and we played better football than the other day, so we are improving, but you have to win these types of games. We had chances, but you need to score from them if you want to win matches."

Benitez admitted he was surprised to see Ngog's close range effort come back off the crossbar, but he was impressed by the impact of Ngog and his fellow substitute Nabil El Zhar.

"I was convinced it was a goal and after that Kuyt had the rebound but it was well blocked," added Benitez.

"We were disappointed but in the last minute we nearly conceded a goal. This is football.

"I was pleased with Ngog and Nabil did well when he came on. Hopefully Torres will be available for the next game and maybe he will be on the bench - if everything is okay over the next few days."

Ngog goes close
in Ewood bore draw


Blackburn and Liverpool fought out a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park, with David Ngog coming closest to a goal with a shot that rattled the crossbar.

The first half was a shocking, grim affair with neither side producing anything worthy of note.

After the break Liverpool were arguably the better side, but even a third successive clean sheet will not mask another display which lacked drive and belief.

Blackburn deserved their point in a good week which also saw them beat Chelsea in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.

They made four changes from Wednesday's victorious side with Michel Salgado, Nikola Kalinic, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Jason Roberts on the bench and the fresh legs of Gael Givet, Vince Grella, El Hadji Diouf and Franco Di Santo all back in the side.

Liverpool had Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun returning to the starting line-up from the side which won at Everton last time out.

Dirk Kuyt played as the lone central striker with Steven Gerrard, playing his 500th game for the club, delegated to his supporting role.

With Riera and Benayoun out wide and a clear decision to defend in depth, Liverpool were looking to hit Blackburn on the break.

Rovers accepted the initiative handed to them in midfield and came forward with purpose with ex-Liverpool man Diouf prominent as the home side monopolised possession.

Not one serious chance was created in the opening half, Liverpool not having enough up front to make things happen and Blackburn finding it tough to weave their way through Liverpool's massed ranks.

Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, back after his heart surgery but leaving the dug-out to his assistant Neil McDonald, would have been reasonably pleased with what he was watching.

Liverpool chief Rafael Benitez fashioned his side to counter Rovers' aerial threat at set-pieces.

He has always been preoccupied with competing against anything Allardyce comes up with, either at Bolton or now Ewood Park.

The first half saw precious little penalty box activity. Givet's 36th-minute free-kick presented Di Santo with a flick-on chance, but Jose Reina was alive to the danger.

A minute later Gerrard burst into the box from the left, but Chris Samba's lunging tackle deflected the shot wide of the far post.

Di Santo should have scored a minute into the second period when Steven Nzonzi's pass put him clear, but the young striker was painfully slow to get the ball under control and was dispossessed by Daniel Agger.

Then Liverpool again lost Riera to injury as he limped away to be replaced by Ngog, Kuyt moving to the left.

Gerrard soon tested Paul Robinson from 25 yards and then saw another flighted chip clear the bar. Diouf was booked for tripping Javier Mascherano, the tempo of the game finally rising.

Gerrard had another shot blocked and Benayoun's header from his captain's corner flew over the bar.

Rovers hit back when they took advantage of Lucas falling over in possession, surging away for Di Santo to test Reina.

Glen Johnson's exciting run past four men ended with a low cross that Ngog smashed against the bar after 71 minutes, Kuyt's follow-up being blocked by Samba.

David Hoilett came on for Diouf and Nabil El Zhar replaced Benayoun, with Benni McCarthy shooting inches wide before being taken off after 76 minutes, Kalinic taking over.

Johnson's cross was then headed back by Gerrard for Ngog, who failed to connect three yards out under pressure.

Rovers sent on Keith Andrews for Di Santo with six minutes left as Liverpool surged forward, but they could not manage the decisive finish.

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