After The Match 


Reading-Liverpool 1-2 (0-1)              7.4. 07                       PL
Goals: Arbeloa (14), Kuyt (85)             Gunnarsson (47)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Finnan, Gonzalez, Sissoko, Mascherano, Gerrard, Crouch, Bellamy
Subs: Kuyt (Bellamy 50), Pennant (Crouch 65), Riise (Gonzalez 79)
Not used: Dudek, Agger
Yellow: Sissoko (68)            Kitson (73), Hahnemann (76)
Red: None
Referee: P Walton
Attendance: 24,121
Shots on target: 2-3
Shots off target: 4-1
Blocked shots: 2-0
Possession: 50-50
Fouls conceded: 12-17
Corners: 7-5
Offsides: 6-3
Yellow: 2-1
HEADLINES "The players have done
a very
good job."

     Rafael Benitez

1004: Window box boys are really blooming
0904: Hyypia focused on early progress  
0904: I’m loving Liverpool, declares midfielder
0804: Arbeloa ends shirt jinx
0704: Benitez hails Reds' focus
0704: Coppell rues lapses
0704: Flying Dutchman seals Reds win  

Window box boys are really blooming

By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo

Rafa Benitez must be delighted with the contribution of his January signings.

It’s often said the mid-season transfer window is most difficult when trying to add quality to your squad, but Liverpool’s recent track record suggests otherwise.

Last year Benitez was cunning in his purchase of Daniel Agger and, of course, Robbie Fowler, and this season the arrival of Javier Mascherano and Alvaro Arbeloa has definitely pepped up his squad.

Mascherano looks to be a class act and West Ham’s loss is certainly Liverpool’s gain.

This time last year, a player of his calibre would have seemed beyond Benitez’s budget, and even after the World Cup no-one would have imagined he’d end the season at Anfield.

An unhappy spell at West Ham has made it possible.

His brief period at Upton Park may not be looked back upon with fondness by him, but in the long-term it may prove of huge benefit to both the player and Liverpool.

He was wrongly perceived as someone who couldn’t adapt to the Premiership in East London, but just a few weeks on Merseyside have been enough to show us what he can do.

He’s not a typical South American player in that when you think about the Brazilians and Argentinians, you usually remember the more flamboyant attacking superstars.

Mascherano reminds me more of Dietmar Hamann. Simplicity is one of the most valuable qualities any footballer can have.

The ability to win the ball and always pass to your team mate sounds like the easiest thing in the world, but it’s a specialist art.

Not surprisingly, both Mascherano and Carlos Tevez seem to be shining at similar points of the season.

It doesn’t matter how good you are, English football is unlike anything else in the world and you need time to adjust.

However, world class players always come good, which is why both the Argentinian youngsters are ending the season in such good form.

It’s no shock to me to see Liverpool have also been linked with Tevez in recent weeks. I’d go so far as to suggest I’d be amazed if Benitez wasn’t seriously considering a summer move for the other South American.

I can’t see him staying at West Ham and every top club must be watching his performances closely. The fact Mascherano has settled here must mean Benitez would stand a good chance of reuniting the pair.

Not only has Mascherano impressed, Arbeloa has settled quickly too.

There’s been a quiz question doing the rounds on Merseyside since last Saturday. Who was the last number two to score for Liverpool?

Amazingly it was Mike Marsh in 1992, which shows you the dearth of truly attacking full-backs the club has had since the days Phil Neal was getting half-a-dozen a year.

The way Arbeloa took his goal against Reading, Benitez will be urging him to get forward more often.

Early season slip-ups so costly for Reds

The title race may have some twists and turns left in it, but while most Liverpool fans will be hoping Chelsea pip United to the post, I still think Sir Alex Ferguson will be laughing at the end.

Experience is the key at this point of a season, and Chelsea haven’t been in a position where they’ve had to chase down the leader before.

I think both sides are looking nervous, and the sad thing for me is Liverpool were so sloppy at the start of this season because they should still be in the hunt for the Premiership.

The game against Reading on Saturday was the perfect example of what should have been happening last August and September.

The team was nowhere near its best, but still responded when it mattered to get the points.

Had they done so against the likes of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Bolton, well, you can work it out for yourself.

Every season is a tale of ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ but I can’t help feel a good opportunity was lost because both Chelsea and United are capable of losing more games over the next few weeks.

Hopefully the lessons will be learned before next season and Liverpool will recognise the importance of not conceding so many points before Christmas.

Hyypia focused on early progress

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Sami Hyypia believes early qualification into next season’s Champions League can help Liverpool’s chances of conquering Europe again this year.

Saturday’s late win over Reading put the Reds on the brink of securing a top four position.

They have a seven- point cushion over fifth spot with just six games left, and know nearest rivals Bolton and Arsenal meet next weekend.

Hyypia, who made a commanding return to senior action in the 2-1 victory at the Madejski, recognised the importance of Dirk Kuyt’s late winner.

“It’s important for us to secure at least fourth, and the sooner we do it the better so we can concentrate on the Champions League,” said Hyypia.

“Now we can focus all our thoughts on the PSV Eindhoven game. We’ve a good starting point going into that, but there’s still work to do, and then we can look to Manchester City and the two home games which follow and think we’re in a strong position to make sure we’ve clinched the nine points I think we need to qualify for the Champions League again.

“When you start the season, that’s always the first aim. Of course, we’d rather finish third than fourth, but realistically it’s the same thing.

That’s the minimum target. Then we know there could be more very important games in the Champions League to come, and if we can get that far knowing we’ve already secured our top four position, it’s better for us.”

Liverpool had to fight for the points on Saturday at Reading, and Hyypia admitted there was an element of fortune about the win over the course of 90 minutes.

“It was a hard win. Reading kept going and we didn’t play particularly well, but the result was good,” he said.

“They didn’t have many chances and Pepe didn’t need to make many saves so from that point of view we did well, but sometimes you need an extra bit of luck and maybe we had that to get the three points.”

Liverpool are now preparing for Wednesday’s home leg with PSV where manager Rafa Benitez has the luxury of a 3-0 advantage to build on.

I’m loving Liverpool, declares midfielder

By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post

Javier Mascherano has hinted that he is hoping to convince Liverpool to make his move permanent.

The Argentinian, currently on an 18-month loan from West Ham, joined in January after a miserable first five months in English football at Upton Park.

But since Liverpool paid £1.5million to secure his services for the remainder of this season and next, the Argentine World Cup star has gradually regained his rhythm.

The 22-year-old was man of the match in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Reading on Saturday, which was his fourth successive start and completed his role in Liverpool’s hat-trick of victories in a week, which has consolidated both their progress in the Champions League and quest to finish third in the Premiership.

And Mascherano acknowledged that his switch to Anfield has been central to him finally settling into English football.

“The truth is I am very happy with Liverpool,” said Mascherano. “Everybody is treating me very well and I hope it continues like that.

“It is good to be in a dressing where there is a lot of Spanish spoken but at the same time we try to speak in English because we are in England and we have to respect that fact.

“But there is a great atmosphere in the dressing room and things are going very well. My team-mates, the technical staff and the fans have been really good to me and that is important.

“And (Reading) was my fourth consecutive game so I am very happy because I have been getting a good run in the side.

“I know what my job is out on the pitch and luckily, here at Liverpool there are some great players. When you are playing with such great players you really enjoy it.

“It is much easier to play alongside great players like the ones here at Liverpool.”

The price that Mascherano commands when his initial loan expires could be a potential sticking point for Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez when he decides whether to keep the midfielder.

But the player who featured in every minute of Argentina’s World Cup campaign in Germany last summer, is concentrating on ensuring Liverpool’s short-term targets rather than his personal long-teem goals.

“I am very happy here,” added Mascherano. “But we will have to see what happens about the future. At the moment I am just concentrating on what needs to be done, making sure that we finish the season strongly.

“Hopefully we can achieve something very important by winning a European title. There is still a long way to go and hopefully we will put in a good performance on Wednesday to make sure we are in the semi-finals.

“Then next season we will see how things are going but I am relaxed and very happy here with Liverpool.”

Liverpool achieved victory at Reading thanks to Dirk Kuyt’s header four minutes from time, after Alvaro Arbeloa had earlier given them the lead by becoming their first ‘number two’ to score in the Premiership.

The victory grew in significance when Arsenal suffered their first defeat at the Emirates Stadium against West Ham, leaving them five points adrift of third-placed Liverpool.

“We knew that we needed the three points,” said Mascherano. “It was important because there are still some big league games to come

“We need to keep winning to make sure we are in the Champions League next season.”

Arbeloa ends shirt jinx

By Al Campbell - LFC Online

Alvaro Arbeloa became the first Liverpool player to score while wearing the number 2 shirt since the Premiership began.

No Liverpool player had scored while wearing the number 2 shirt since Mike Marsh in the old First Division. Once squad numbers were allocated at the start of the Premier League the number 2 shirt has become a jinx.

First to have 2 as a squad number was Rob Jones whose inability to threaten the opposition goalkeeper became a bit of an in-joke. Once Jones left for West Ham Stephane Henchoz took over the number 2 shirt.

Henchoz did score in a penalty shoot out for the Reds and scored in a pre-season friendly against Celtic soon after Rafa Benitez had taken charge of the Reds, but in competitive action the jinx ruled.

Jan Kromkamp wore the number 2 shirt last season and despite the odd appearance in midfield as well as in defence, he failed to score for the Reds.

Hopes weren't high for Arbeloa once his squad number was allocated but the Spaniard has ended the jinx in only his second Premiership start for the Reds. Let's hope it's the first of many.

Benitez hails Reds' focus

ITV Football

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez praised his side's ability to ignore the distractions of the Champions League and secure a battling 2-1 victory over Reading.

Dirk Kuyt came off the bench to head home the winner with five minutes remaining at he Madejski Stadium after Reading's Brynjar Gunnarson had cancelled out Alvaro Arbeloa's first-half opener.

Liverpool face PSV Eindhoven in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday night having secured a 3-0 lead in Holland last week.

And Benitez said: "It was difficult after a Champions League game and with the players focusing on the Champions League.

"It was difficult to play against a physical team who were pressing and working hard to the end. The players have done a very good job.

"We knew the experience Manchester United had here when they were winning 3-0 after six minutes and then Reading came back to make it 3-2."

The win strengthened Liverpool's chances of finishing in the top four of the Barclays Premiership and securing Champions League qualification.

Benitez said: "Hopefully we will reach the semi-final of the Champions League and I hope we can be sure we are in the top four so we can concentrate on that."

Xavi Alonso was rested as a precaution but is expected to be fit for the PSV game - and Benitez vowed not to rest any players despite Liverpool's lead.

"Xavi had a kick to the calf. He said he was OK but we preferred not to risk him," said Benitez.

"These kind of games are difficult. Sometimes teams say, 'OK, the job is done'. But we have to be careful."

Coppell rues lapses

By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports

Reading boss Steve Coppell bemoaned his side's defending after going down 2-1 to Liverpool.

Dirk Kuyt's late goal gave Liverpool a hard-fought victory after Reading battled back in the second half to cancel out Alvaro Arbeloa's opener through Brynjar Gunnarsson.

Coppell felt he thought his side could win the game only for some naive defending to give Liverpool the win.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game," said Coppell. "They are one of the top sides in the league and one of the best in Europe.

"We gave away a silly goal early doors, but we got about them a bit more in the second half and were more positive in our play.

"We got the goal back and at stages I thought we would get a second goal but we ended being disappointed and upset as we gave away a second soft goal, but we have to try and learn from it.

"I felt the momentum was with us [in the second half] but they have such a powerful bench with Kuyt and Pennant sitting there and they combined for the goal.

"It is a big advantage the firepower they have on the bench, but we are more disappointed for ourselves as we gave away both goals cheaply and we paid a hard price for it.

"When you play against quality players you have to be on your toes and we paid for a couple of lapses."

Flying Dutchman seals Reds win


Dirk Kuyt came off the bench to head home an 85th minute winner as Liverpool beat Reading 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

Liverpool moved a step closer to automatic Champions League qualification after Dirk Kuyt came off the bench to head home the winner against Reading five minutes from time.

With Arsenal losing at home to West Ham, the battling victory moved Liverpool five points clear of the Gunners in third place in the Barclays Premiership.

And it sets them up nicely for Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final, second leg tie against PSV Eindhoven at Anfield.

Kuyt will not be available after picking up a booking in the first leg - not that Liverpool should need him given they hold a 3-0 lead - but he proved the saviour at the Madejski Stadium.

The Dutchman popped up at the far post to head home Jermaine Pennant's lofted cross just when it appeared Reading had done enough to secure the draw.

Brynjar Gunnarson's low drive just after the restart had draw Reading level after Alvaro Arbeloa had given Liverpool the lead with his first goal in English football.

Arbeloa had come into the side as one of five changes made by manager Rafael Benitez and his strike came against the run of play. Hahnemann

Reading started well, with enough industry and energy to pin Liverpool back in their own half for the best part of 15 minutes.

They worked their chances too but despite the best efforts of John Oster down the wing and Stephen Hunt's tireless running Liverpool rarely looked in discomfort.

Ivar Ingamarsson did rise above Jamie Carragher to meet Oster's near post corner but powered his header over the bar.

And Oster stung the hands of Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina with a fierce drive from the edge of the box.

He then went to ground as both players scrambled for the rebound, but referee Peter Walton waved away Reading's penalty appeals.

Oster whipped in a cross from the right which had Reina in trouble - but Reading could not convert their chances and were stung on the break.

Nicky Shorey's free-kick rebounded off the Liverpool wall and Arbeloa ran it clear down the left.

The Spaniard exchanged passed with Peter Crouch before curling a right-footed finish neatly past Marcus Hahnemman and inside the far post.

Kevin Doyle had an immediate chance to snatch an equaliser but rifled his drive over the Liverpool bar.

Reading continued to press, with Oster lively down the right flank, and their build-up play was promising but it never got any further.

There was little urgency about Liverpool but they were quick enough to close down space and force to play around the fringes of the box without ever penetrating it.

Reading may have had most of the ball, but Liverpool remained the more dangerous side as Gerrard led another counter-attack from deep which Hahnemann did well to squander as he picked off Craig Bellamy's cross.

Bellamy then latched onto a long clearance from Reina but Michael Duberry, having misjudged the first ball, recovered before the Welsh international could get his shot away.

The first half ended as a damp squib - but the game restarted with a bang.

It took Reading just 80 seconds to succeed where they had failed for the previous 45 minutes and find the killer ball to break open the Liverpool defence.

Hunt was the architect, curling a clever ball to the right edge of the box and Gunnarsson stole around the outside of Finnan to lash his low drive past Reina and in off the post.

Reading's equaliser opened the game up. Liverpool pushed for an immediate riposte.

Bellamy went down under a stretched challenge from Ingimarsson as he closed in on the Reading goal and was furious when referee Walton waved away his appeals for a penalty.

Another Oster cross sailed to the far post where Hunt uncoiled a volley, which rebounded off Finnan for a corner.

Carragher then diverted a defensive header onto his own post as Reading caused Liverpool their first real difficulties of the game.

Bellamy was replaced by Kuyt soon after his penalty appeal and the Dutchman offered Liverpool a different option up front.

Kuyt latched onto a clever ball from Sissoko and drew Hahnemann but his angled pass was just too far ahead for Gerrard to slot into an open goal.

Ingimarsson stepped in to block Kuyt after he had played a neat one-two with Gerrard to break into the Reading box.

Hahnemann was booked for handling the ball on the edge of his area and Gerrard curled in a dangerous cross to the far post which Hunt did well to clear under pressure.

But there was nothing Reading could do when Pennant, on a substitute, turned inside Harper and chipped a cross to the far post where Kuyt was on hand to head home the winner.

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