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."
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
"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
"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
"I have had lots of 'well dones' from him, but when I need a
kick up the backside I get it too."
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
"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
"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
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."
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
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
"People have their own opinions but the only one that
matters to me is what my players and my chairman think,"
"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
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
"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
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
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
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.