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
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
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
There’s been a quiz question doing the rounds on Merseyside
since last Saturday. Who was the last number two to score
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
The game against Reading on Saturday was the perfect example
of what should have been happening last August and
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
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
“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.
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
“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
“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
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.”
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
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.
hails Reds' focus
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
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."
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Bellamy was replaced by Kuyt soon after his penalty appeal
and the Dutchman offered Liverpool a different option up
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.