After The Match 


Blackburn-Liverpool 1-3 (0-0)          6.12.08                        PL
Goals: Alonso (70), Benayoun (79), Gerrard (90+4)  Santa Cruz (86)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua, Benayoun, Mascherano, Alonso, Babel, Gerrard, Kuyt
Subs: El Zhar (Babel 64), Lucas (Mascherano 83),
Riera (Benayoun 87)
Not used: Agger, Cavalieri, Dossena, Keane
Yellow: Babel (20), Arbeloa (58)      Andrews (43), Warnock (59)
Red: None
Referee: A Marriner
Shots on target: 2-6
Shots off target: 4-3
Blocked shots: 1-0
Fouls conceded: 12-11
Corners: 5-6
Offsides: 2-2
Possession: 37.9-62.1
Yellow: 2-2
HEADLINES "You can't afford to
be selfish."
Steven Gerrard
0712: Kuyt: This is the best yet
0712: Gerrard: I won't be selfish anymore
0612: Benitez: We have proven ourselves
0612: Ince boosted by Blackburn display
0612: Reds smash goal drought to stay top of the pile

Kuyt: This is the best yet

By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website

Dirk Kuyt believes the side currently riding high at the top of the Barclays Premier League is the best he has played in since arriving at Anfield.

The Dutch star feels the Reds have taken a massive step forward having already beaten both Manchester United and Chelsea this season and believes their success stems from the grounded outlook of the club's star names.

"We are a family club, it's one of the first things you recognise when you arrive," he said.

"For example, Steven is an absolute star on every pitch in the world he steps on to, but outside the pitch he's really down to earth.

"This is the best Liverpool team I've been involved in. Winning games like the Manchester United one is a massive step. We're showing we have the power and strength to win difficult games. We want to show we can win this league".

The Holland international has enjoyed a successful campaign so far, producing some superb performances, both as a striker and in the wide right position.

He feels his ability to adapt to different formations is vital to achieve success in the English game and is confident he can continue to do the business wherever he is asked to play.

"I did play in different roles in Holland," he said. "What's important is that, in English football, which is different, I'm now showing I can play every position up front.

"I'm not really a right-winger but I play the way I like to play it and sometimes, because Steven [Gerrard] and [Fernando] Torres get a lot of attention from opponents, that gives me more space to score goals and make assists."

Gerrard: I won't be
selfish anymore


Steven Gerrard has admitted to being selfish in his desire to be given a free-role and now vowed to play anywhere for the good of Liverpool.

Gerrard has complained in the past when moved away from the central role he has become accustomed to, saying his performances suffered as a result.

He admits he was wrong to be so stubborn but insists he is now happy to play anywhere to help the Reds in their quest for Premier League glory.

Rafa Benitez has asked Gerrard to play more defensively at times, while he has also had to switch out wide, but the 28-year-old maintains that he is only focused on the welfare of the team.

"I used to worry because I was selfish and wanted to be in my favoured position every game - like you do on the playground when you're a kid," Gerrard told the News of the World.

"But the game has changed. I have learned to understand I have a job to do for the team.

"You can't afford to be selfish. If I play out of position and we get a win I still get the same buzz.

"If the manager says to me I'm playing centre midfield or off the front man, there's no massive difference to me.

"But yes, I enjoy playing further forward, especially behind Fernando Torres.

"I'll play wherever the manager wants me to play and not worry about it."

Gerrard feels Benitez is one of the best bosses in the business and has saluted his man-management skills.

He said: "You have to take your hat off to him. He's one of the best managers there is.

"Rafa is the type that when you finish a game as man of the match having scored three goals, he won't even mention it. Instead, he'll mention that you never used your left foot at a certain point!

"But Rafa does it right. When I need a pat on the back I get it.

"I have had lots of 'well dones' from him, but when I need a kick up the backside I get it too."

Benitez: We have
proven ourselves

By Dan Quarrell - Setanta Sports

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was bullish about his side’s prospects after their 3-1 victory over Blackburn at Ewood Park.

After successive goalless draws against Fulham and West Ham, Benitez has had to endure scepticism about his side’s ability to handle the pressure of being at the top of the Premier League table.

Following strikes from Xabi Alonso, Yossi Benayoun and Steven Gerrard, The Reds cemented their place at the top of the table, and Benitez believes his side’s credentials have now been proven.

"We can manage the pressure," Benitez insisted to the club’s official website.

"We have shown we can manage the pressure. When you have a game like this, you know you might have problems.

"But we were more clinical than other days and that is important with the Christmas programme coming up.

"We are in a very good position so it is vital we play with confidence and that the players pass the ball well."

Liverpool’s finishing against Blackburn was clinical, with Benitez admitting that the key was to capitalise on the few opportunities his side created against Paul Ince’s side.

"We had plenty of possession in the first half and although we did not create many chances, Yossi could have scored,” he said.

"Then after we made the breakthrough, we created more space and had more options.

"It is important the strikers get goals and I am pleased when the midfielders do so as well. It does not matter to me who scores."

The Reds manager left Robbie Keane on the bench and compounded his decision by replacing Ryan Babel, who took a knock, with Nabil El Zhar, but he stressed that this was a purely tactical decision.

"Dirk Kuyt was doing really well and I just needed a different option in wide areas,” said Benitez.

“That is why I did not choose Robbie,” he added. “Clearly it was an important three points for us."

Ince boosted by
Blackburn display

BBC Sport Online

Under-pressure Blackburn boss Paul Ince says his side's display in the 3-1 loss to Liverpool shows that the players are fully behind him as manager.

The result condemned Rovers to their fifth straight league defeat and leaves them second from bottom in the table.

"People can question whether the players are playing for their manager but you have seen that today in abundance," Ince told BBC Sport.

"If we can perform like that week in week out then we will be fine."

Ince was only appointed five months ago but has come under pressure following a poor run of form that has left his side languishing in the relegation zone.

He asked for patience after his side's Carling Cup defeat by Manchester United during the week but Saturday's result against Liverpool will increase the speculation surrounding Ince's future.

"People have their own opinions but the only one that matters to me is what my players and my chairman think," added Ince.

"People are always going to have opinions when things are not going as well as they should but today we matched a team that's going for the Premiership for 70 minutes.

"The performance in general was absolutely excellent. At the moment there is a lot of positivity and the bottom line is that the players have been fantastic.

"We have not won the game but at least the players can walk a bit taller knowing that they put in a great performance against a very good team.

"You are going to go through your rough patches but they make you a better manager and it makes you a tougher person."

And Ince was full of praise for the support the Blackburn fans gave the players at Ewood Park.

"At a time like this where certain people are trying to get you out of a job we have all come together as a club," he said.

"The fans were different class. The crowd were clapping the players off because they know they have put in a performance that says we are better than where we are.

"I would like to thank the fans for that.

"It's easy to go the other way. I asked the fans to support us and stick together and they have certainly done that."

Reds smash goal drought
to stay top of the pile

By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports

Xabi Alonso broke Liverpool’s crippling goal drought as he and Steven Gerrard inspired The Reds to a 3-1 victory over Blackburn to stay at the top of The Premier League.

With 69 minutes on the clock, Liverpool looked to be heading for a third consecutive goalless draw for the first time in their history. They were fortunate to be on level terms too after Jose Reina made arguably the save of the season to deny Morten Gamst Pedersen’s first half thunderbolt.

Liverpool needed inspiration at the other end, Gerrard probed all afternoon as Robbie Keane watched from the bench, but it was Alonso who strode onto a loose spinning ball to calmly stroke The Reds on their way to three huge huge points.

Yossi Benayoun then hit Blackburn on the counter for a rapier-like second, before Liverpool were forced to cling on for a nervy final five minutes after Roque Santa Cruz halved the deficit late on.

The last word was left to the man-of-the-match Gerrard, who once again drove his team to a vital three points to keep their title challenge bang on course.

Despite 19 places separating the two sides before kick-off, both came into Saturday’s game sharing the same goal…which was to score a goal.

Rafa Benitez’s patience had finally snapped. Robbie Keane, head-shaking or not, was demoted to the bench to allow Liverpool to employ that highly-dangerous lone frontman called Dirk Kuyt. How predictable that it did not begin to work in the first half.

Kuyt’s ineffectiveness as a lone hitman was all too predictable. Less expected was the hesistant, panicky, out-of-control first-half display of Ryan Babel (in for Albert Riera), which – combined with Kuyt's anonymity – rendered Liverpool’s attack more-or-less toothless.

They created just one chance of note in a first half that saw Alvaro Arbeloa emerge as their biggest threat, although – in fairness – that chance arrived after an electric passing exchange. For the only time in the opening 45 minutes Liverpool inspired memories of Dalglish, Beardsley, Barnes and co, with Gerrard, Alonso, Kuyt and Benayoun combining to send the Israeli one-on-one with Paul Robinson. Benayoun took a touch, pulled back the left boot…but from nowhere Steven Warnock displayed the kind of bravery that earned him multiple broken legs whilst on Liverpool’s books.

The rest of the half followed a pattern that had Paul Ince’s stamp all over it. Blackburn hunted in packs, something which they failed to do against Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal, and Liverpool’s passing was not good enough to cope with the pressure.

Eventually that pressure would create the moment of the half as Pedersen intercepted Gerrard’s sloppy pass 25 yards from goal. The Norwegian has not been at his best for at least two years but he pulled out a classic dipping, bending rocket which began on the far post and swerved viciously towards the other. Cue the Premier League’s best goalkeeper Jose Reina, who made arguably the save of the season to tip it onto the bar. How vital will that touch be at the end of the season? Watch the replay, Xabi Alonso has given it up, the shoulders slouched, Reina rescued The Reds with a big big save – no wonder he had only conceded in one of his last seven games.

There was no doubt that Liverpool needed to slide through the gears. Their first half display was about as dangerous as a sponge. Blackburn’s high tempo and desire was knocking them out of their stride, with Pedersen particularly conspicuous with his work rate.

Liverpool’s hopes rested on sporadic moments of class, this time provided by Emiliano Insua just before the hour, who exchanged a sharp one-two before crossing for Alonso who slammed his volley into Robinson’s midriff.

The Blackburn keeper would have been disappointed if that effort had beaten him, but his next save was world class. Gerrard was the man to fiz a 25-yarder towards goal, Robinson got down one-handed to save, and then did enough to deny Benayoun who agonisingly could not force the ball into the empty net.

Just 20 minutes left, Ryan Babel off for Nabil El Zhar and still no Robbie Keane. A goal looked unlikely for Liverpool. That was until arguably their best player this season, Xabi Alonso, kept the coolest of heads to strike the most crucial of goals. Kuyt played an indirect role, miscuing his shot on the edge of the box, but that set the ball up perfectly for Alonso on the half-volley. Many would have drilled it, but Alonso faked to put his foot through the ball and then gently caressed it past Robinson. A wonderful finish.

Now Blackburn needed to do something they had only done four times all season…score at home. And they should have done, through Santa Cruz of all people. Sami Hyypia had kept the Paraguayan well marshaled all afternoon, but Andre Ooijer’s pinpoint cross finally gave Santa Cruz the service he craved. The striker towered high above the Liverpool defence, but his header fell well wide.

Instead it was Benayoun who would add the second goal, finally running at Stephen Warnock for the first time in 79 minutes to slam low into Robinson’s far corner.

Blackburn were not prepared to lie down though, Santa Cruz hitting back at the far post to set up a dramatic finale. Fortunately for Liverpool, they had the best player on the pitch and, after Robinson had raced out of his box to foil El Zhar, the Liverpool skipper kept his nerve to place the ball into an empty net.

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Thor Zakariassen ©