What a duo. More celebration from
Torres and gerrard. (Photo: Empics)
Finding the right formula
is now reaping rewards
By Ben Thornley - Liverpool Daily Post
In uncertain times off the pitch at
Anfield, rotation at least provides one constant on it. Yet
even as Rafael Benitez made three changes to his starting XI
– conservative by the Liverpool manager’s standards – his
side continued to exude an increasingly settled look in
defeating Kevin Keegan’s wretched Newcastle outfit on
The personnel may have changed, but crucially the system
which has served Benitez’s men so well in recent weeks did
That two of the three incoming players – Yossi Benayoun and,
despite his freak opening goal, Jermaine Pennant – were
largely ineffective mattered little. For a fourth
consecutive game Liverpool lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation
and for a fourth occasion the result was the same.
Employed intermittently throughout this troubled season, the
tactic of deploying Fernando Torres as a lone striker
supported by three rampaging midfielders has enjoyed varying
degrees of success, with many observers castigating
Benitez’s approach following January’s home draw with Wigan.
Fielding one striker against a team as pitiful as Steve
Bruce’s men had to some appeared needlessly cautious,
The switch to the system favoured by the former Valencia
chief during his successful Mestalla reign has, however,
been at the root of Liverpool’s revival since the FA Cup
exit to Barnsley, enabling Benitez to field his stellar
performers in their favoured roles.
The demand of the formation for two holding midfielders
allows the manager to squeeze both Xabi Alonso, excellent
here against Newcastle, and Javier Mascherano – or Lucas on
this occasion – into the same team, giving Steven Gerrard
the platform to drift and rampage further up the pitch in
support of Torres.
It was, of course, also the preferred set up of Jose
Mourinho’s Chelsea when they were at their most potent under
the Portuguese, the key feature of his Premier League
title-winning side being the relationship between Frank
Lampard and Didier Drogba.
The partnership of Torres and Gerrard bears similarities to
that of their Stamford Bridge counterparts – a powerful
front-runner and a prolific midfielder – but the Liverpool
pair already appear to have forged an understanding once
shared by a more fabled duo in these parts.
If Torres – now just one goal short of becoming the first
Liverpool striker since Robbie Fowler’s most prolific
season, 1995-96, to score 20 league goals in a term – is the
new Ian Rush, then the captain’s left-footed through ball
for the Spaniard’s 19th strike evoked memories of Kenny
Dalglish in his pomp. Admittedly, however, Torres’s stylish
dummy and finish was more Pele than Rush.
Gerrard and the club record signing are thriving in a system
designed to exploit their strengths and the England
playmaker has rarely appeared to enjoy his game as much as
at present. Indeed, there are moments when the Huyton-born
player actually appears in awe of the younger man.
The move to 4-2-3-1 has also coincided with Ryan Babel’s
best run of form in the side and Dirk Kuyt’s Anfield
rebirth, with each man occupying the wide positions in which
they feature for the Dutch national side. At least before
Kuyt was axed by Holland manager Marco van Basten that is.
Both men were rested here with Inter Milan in mind although
the rejuvenated Kuyt again looked lively when he replaced
Gerrard late in Saturday’s game.
Their replacements, Benayoun and Pennant, were both off the
pace, unsurprisingly given their lack of recent match
action, although the encounter yielded the ex-Birmingham man
a second goal in 71 appearances for Liverpool. Unlike on the
occasion of his last strike – a stunner against Chelsea last
term – even the winger himself was not going to champion his
England credentials this time. The watching Fabio Capello
would have been as convinced by this indifferent showing as
his FA employers would have been by the Kop’s pleas of
“Keegan for England.” Perhaps they meant in a playing
The Newcastle manager could certainly not fare any worse
than his floundering striker, Michael Owen, whose influence
faded once Martin Skrtel rose to the task of shackling the
former European Player of the Year. At least Owen was
afforded the reception his deeds at this ground deserved by
the Anfield faithful on his second homecoming. He found
Liverpool’s defence less generous, however.
Benitez, who introduced Sami Hyypia for Gerrard in the final
minutes as he switched to a back three – a dress rehearsal
for tomorrow night perhaps – will be hoping Inter Milan
encounter his men in similarly mean-spirited mood.
Keegan salutes Gerrard
and Torres double act
By Nick Peet - Liverpool Echo
Kevin Keegan urged Liverpool fans to sit
back and enjoy the next chapter of great goalscoring
partnerships in the club's illustrious history after
watching his dire Newcastle side slump to defeat
The Toon boss and former Anfield goal hero couldn't help
purring about the performances of Steven Gerrard and
Fernando Torres after Liverpool's comfortable 3-0 victory.
Keegan seemed to revel in the opportunity to forget about
his own side for a couple of seconds as he rapped on about
the blossoming Reds strikeforce.
He commented: "You can see that Torres and Gerrard are
building up a great partnership and really starting to get
the best out of one another.
"For those two players this is just the start and it will
only get better for them.
"As a Liverpool fan you should be looking at them two
together and thinking, 'wow, this can only get better.'
"A player like Torres doesn't come cheap but you get what
you pay for. Liverpool paid more than £20 million so you
expect him to be that good.
"Let's face facts, Liverpool never took a chance on him the
way they did when they bought me from Scunthorpe for
£35,000. They have bought a world class international
striker who was doing that kind of thing for Spain and in
Madrid before they went for him so you would expect him to
be that good.
"But Liverpool are really hitting top form right now. They
are finding the back of the net and not only playing well
but winning games."
Keegan admits that while the first goal was lucky, the
second was the one which won the match for the home side.
"We started quite good but the loss of that first goal was
hard and we needed a bit of luck like that if I am honest.
But these things happen in football.
"To concede another goal before the break was a bigger blow.
To go in at half-time one-down you've got a chance. But when
you go two-down at a place like Anfield then you're in
"Our performance was just not good enough. We never did
anything to hurt Liverpool."
It was a perfect day
By Lee Brown - LFC Official Website
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was happy
after his side's 3-0 win over Newcastle at Anfield
maintained their winning run ahead of Tuesday's crucial
Champions League second leg with Inter Milan.
Goals from Jermaine Pennant, Fernando Torres and Steven
Gerrard helped make it five wins on the bounce for the Reds
and Rafa felt it was the ideal preparation before they set
off for Italy.
"You must be happy," said Rafa. "We needed to win and we
scored three goals and kept another clean sheet. We were
also able to rest some players as well so it was perfect."
Torres and Gerrard were both withdrawn midway through the
second half, obviously with Inter in mind, but they had
already done the damage. Torres scored his 25th of the
season to make it 2-0 in the 45th minute and then he turned
provider for his skipper just after the break, and Rafa was
full of praise for the pair.
"Both Torres and Gerrard are playing well and that is
important for us," said Rafa. "If they have the space, with
the quality and pace they have, they can kill defenders.
"Torres' goal was really good, Gerrard and Torres have a
really good understanding and the goal came at a crucial
time because it almost killed the game off. That helped us
play with more confidence in the second half.
"The first goal was lucky, but the team was controlling the
game. We were passing the ball well, but they were defending
well and it was difficult to create clear chances. Sometimes
you need the first goal and then after that it's easier."
The Reds will fly to Italy on Monday and Rafa was happy to
report there were no new injury concerns after this game.
He said, "Lucas finished the game a bit tired, but the team
should be ok. I have confidence that Mascherano will be ok,
but it is too soon to say."
Keegan wants a
dose of Toon courage
By Tom Kell - Setanta Sports
Kevin Keegan pinned the blame on his
players’ lack of courage after the latest defeat of his
waning Newcastle tenure.
The fanfare that greeted Keegan’s return to St James’ Park
has now been replaced with a sense of trepidation after
Saturday’s 3-0 loss at Liverpool plunged the club further
into the relegation mire.
Three points separate Keegan’s side from the bottom three
and he knows that his side can ill afford many performances
of a similar ilk to that they produced against Rafa
“It was disappointing and nowhere near good enough,” he told
Newcastle’s official website. “We have gone behind to an
unfortunate goal when Enrique tried to clear.
“That was the killer goal and typical of our bad luck. But
the second one was a poor goal to concede and going in 2-0
at half-time is different. We didn’t show enough courage or
self-belief when we had the ball.
“When you come to Liverpool you also have to compete when
you don’t have the ball and earn their respect, but we
didn’t do that. We’ve got players who can compete but today
pile pressure on Kev
Liverpool piled the pressure on both
Everton and Kevin Keegan as they powered to a comfortable
3-0 win over Newcastle at Anfield on Saturday.
Keegan's Newcastle misery deepened on the ground where he is
rightly still remembered as a playing legend in the heady
days under Bill Shankly.
As a manager, Keegan has inherited a feeble, spineless
Newcastle outfit who have now gone 12 Premier League games
without a victory.
Liverpool cruised to their fourth successive league win, the
first time they have achieved that measure of consistency
for 13 months, and they will head off to their Champions
League night of destiny against Inter Milan next week high
This was Liverpool's 300th Premier League victory, and they
now have a firm grip on that elusive fourth spot.
It was again their scoring double act of Steven Gerrard and
Fernando Torres who put victory beyond doubt before the
captain was withdrawn on the hour to protect him for
Tuesday's date in the San Siro.
Ten minutes later Torres was also withdrawn, the Spaniard -
now with 25 goals in 34 games, 13 in his last 12 - certainly
could not be risked any longer with Inter next up.
Jermaine Pennant, very fortunately, deflected in the first
goal while Torres and Gerrard created goals for each other.
Michael Owen, on his 250th Premier League appearance, was a
pale shadow of the player who once electrified Anfield. Now
Torres has taken that mantle.
Liverpool were without injured pair Javier Mascherano and
Steve Finnan, while Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel started on the
bench - with Yossi Benayoun, Pennant and Lucas coming into
Newcastle were without Joey Barton, with Charles N'Zogbia
the only change from the side which lost at home to
Blackburn last weekend.
There was a show of strength from the Americans, with
Liverpool moving towards shared ownership if Dubai
International Capital complete their buy out of George
Gillett next week,
A clutch of them were in the directors' box, including
another of Tom Hicks' sons, Mike.
But Liverpool fans paid more attention to Kevin Keegan, a
Kop legend, who spent 20 minutes before the game signing
countless autographs as his team warmed up.
The Newcastle manager did not look like he had a care in the
world - and his team started confidently, with Alan Smith
seeing a seventh-minute header from a corner deflected wide
from a corner.
At the other end Torres took on Abdoulaye Faye on the right
and fired in a cross-shot which Steve Harper turned away.
John Arne Riise was booked for a high challenge on James
Milner but Newcastle were still more than holding their own
- until the freak 43rd-minute incident which took the game
away from them.
Jose Enrique's attempted clearance cannoned back off Pennant
and into the net, giving Liverpool the lead and Pennant only
his second goal in 71 games for the club.
Seconds before the break Torres rubbed salt into visiting
wounds when he rounded Harper and coolly netted following an
outstanding ball from Gerrard.
Newcastle, who had replaced Milner with Geremi just before
the break, fell three goals behind in the 51st minute, with
Enrique again the man to suffer.
The Magpies defender failed to confront Torres, opting to
back away as the Spaniard took possession. That invited
Liverpool forward, and Torres sent Gerrard away down the
middle to neatly chip Harper for the third.
Newcastle were now a shambles at the back, with Torres and
Gerrard combining with ease before the latter saw a shot
saved excellently by Harper.
Keegan sent on Obafemi Martins for the ineffective Damien
Duff, before Liverpool replaced Gerrard on the hour.
Martins hit the bar with a fierce left-footed effort in the
68th minutes, before Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch formed the
home strike partnership.
Sami Hyypia came on after 78 minutes - replacing Pennant -
as Liverpool utilised a three-man central defence which
could operate against Inter on Tuesday.
Harper saved well from a Kuyt flick and then got down to
block a Riise drive, before Benayoun saw a diving header
deflected just wide as the Reds finished in confident
fashion against a team who are heading in the wrong