Man of The Match, Steven Gerrard fighting with
West Ham's Noble at Upton Park. (Photo: PA)
partnership is key
By Mike McGrath - PA Sport
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard would
welcome two suitable signings this summer to strengthen a
squad that he thinks will challenge for next year's title
based on his partnership with Fernando Torres.
Gerrard has warned the Premier League that he expects to
push Manchester United even closer next season if he and
Spain striker Torres stay fit.
They have only started 13 league games together this season
but have scored 16 goals between them in those games, with
two from Gerrard helping defeat West Ham 3-0 on Saturday.
And Liverpool's captain feels his side are not far away from
being the finished article.
"We've shown this year we've made massive strides and there
has been big progression," Gerrard said. "I think every
squad, no matter how successful you are, still needs
strengthening and changes.
"I don't think this team needs many changes because the
players in the squad are very good. If we can get a couple
in and get stronger, of course we want them."
Liverpool are mathematically still in the title race but
United are still favourites, although that could have been a
different story if Gerrard and Torres were fit for the
"The frustrating thing for both of us is that we haven't
been on the pitch together far more," Gerrard said.
"Going into next season it's important that we both stay fit
to give Liverpool the best chance of being successful
because we feel if we are both fit and on top form we'll
cause defenders and teams many problems.
"Without sounding big-headed there is a confidence when we
are both on the pitch that we can win football matches. When
he is on top form I don't think anyone will argue that he is
the best striker in the world. To not have him fit is so
frustrating, as his team-mate.
"If we are both on the pitch and fit you'll see many more
goals as well."
After Ryan Babel wrapped up victory at Upton Park, Gerrard
then anticipated a nervous time this week watching United
play their games in hand.
Hammers midfielder Mark Noble feels Gerrard deserves a title
winners' medal in his career for his setting an example to
other players in his position.
Noble, who swapped shirts with Gerrard and also picked up
Jamie Carragher's to pass on to former team-mate Craig
Bellamy, said: "He's the best, isn't he? Let's put that
"In my eyes, with the praise he does get, I still don't
think he gets enough. He's obviously labelled one of the
best in Europe but with the goals he scores, how he is for
Liverpool, I'd say he is the best.
"He has stayed at his own club all these years. The really
big teams are all interested in him but he pledged his
future to Liverpool. For his sake, I hope one day he wins
the title. For him and for Liverpool."
For Noble, he hopes to eventually get close to the standards
set by Gerrard.
"Everyone wants to aspire to being that good," he said.
"He's got a fantastic brain but he is also an athlete - he's
strong, powerful and quick. He's got everything. If I can be
nearly as good as Stevie Gerrard I'd be pleased."
throw title open
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez is keeping his fingers
crossed Man City can throw the title race wide open on
Sunday after Liverpool maintained their charge with a 3-0
at Upton Park.
Steven Gerrard fired twice in the first half against West
Ham, with Ryan Babel adding a third late on to elevate
Liverpool to the top of the Barclays Premier League on goal
United now play the first of two games in hand against City
- and Benitez believes victory for Mark Hughes' men would
crank up the pressure on the champions.
"We have done our job," said the Spaniard. "We have to keep
winning, that's all we can do. We needed to get three points
and put them under pressure, and now we will be supporting
"It's a derby and if they make a mistake they will be
feeling the pressure. Man City is a difficult team to play
Asked if he would be watching the game in a blue scarf,
Benitez joked: "Maybe. If I am at home and relaxed, I will
watch it. I will be relaxed because you can't have any
With time running out on Liverpool's title dream, Benitez
was asked if he looked back with regret on any of the seven
Anfield draws this term, notably the stalemate with West Ham
The boss believes this fixture was pivotal, explaining: "We
can talk about some draws but especially this one. We were
preparing this game and we watched clips of all the missed
chances - there were a lot. It is a pity because this could
have made the difference.
"Also, it's true that we've won a lot of games at the end of
matches, so in the end, when you talk about nine months, you
often finish where you should finish."
As things stand, Liverpool could miss out on the title
having lost fewer games than the champions.
Benitez added: "I don't remember (if this has happened
before), but we are doing a good job. I was talking to some
people the other day and if you analyse the two games we
lost - against Middlesbrough for the first 30 minutes we
were on top, and against Tottenham it was one of our best
away performances of the season. It's unbelievable, but
Reporters also asked the gaffer if he believed Liverpool
would be champions had Gerrard and Fernando Torres started
more than 12 league games together.
"We have scored a lot of goals through different players,"
he replied. "That's a massive positive. But if you have
Torres and Gerrard on the pitch, it's a massive difference.
The other team is always thinking, 'Who will score - Gerrard
or Torres?' It's more difficult for them.
"But I have belief still this season."
Liverpool looked comfortable at Upton Park following
Gerrard's second-minute opener but Benitez claims it wasn't
as easy as it appeared.
"We were in a very good position because we scored the early
goal," he said. "It made a big difference. They had to go
forward and so we had more space. The penalty made it worse
for them but still they played well, passed the ball and
played with ability between the lines. We had to score the
"We had a lot of chances on the counter attack. We talked
about it before and practised in the week, so that's good."
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Steven Gerrard helped fire Liverpool back
to the top of the Premier League table - and then called on
Manchester City to do the Reds a favour at Old Trafford
Two goals from Gerrard and a late Ryan Babel strike ensured
Rafael Benitez's men once again leapfrogged United into top
spot, with Alex Ferguson's men playing one of their two
games in hand against their city rivals on Sunday lunchtime.
United now play three times before Liverpool take to the
field again - and Gerrard is keeping his fingers crossed the
Reds' title dreams are still alive by the time our next
match at West Brom on Sunday comes around.
"It was important for us to keep going and do our job," said
the skipper. "We have to win our remaining games and put
pressure on United.
"If they win their games then fair play to them and they
will deserve it, but at the moment we deserve to be at the
top of the league.
"They have a tough game against Man City tomorrow. City have
run into a bit of form and it's a derby match which is never
easy. We just have to wait and hope City can do us a favour.
"Whatever happens now, though, this season has been one of
progression. We're on May 9 and we're still in the title
race and we haven't been able to say that for a long time.
That shows we have good players and a good togetherness.
"We're still in there fighting and we'll keep going, but if
it's not to be then we'll learn from where we have gone
wrong this season and look to put it right next year."
Reds on top
By Robin Hackett - Setanta Sports
Liverpool maintained the pressure on
Manchester United with a comfortable 3-0 win over West Ham
at Upton Park.
Steven Gerrard opened the scoring on two minutes before
adding a second before the break when he was able to turn
the ball home after seeing his spot-kick saved.
Substitute Ryan Babel then rounded things off in the 85th
minute to move Liverpool back to the top of the table.
West Ham went into the game needing a win if they were to
keep their European qualification hopes in their own hands.
However, The Hammers had not beaten a top-four side under
Gianfranco Zola and, given their need on this occasion, the
Italian told Setanta: “It’s something we have to do sooner
or later and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.”
Yet any such hopes were instantly dented as, on 76 seconds,
Liverpool were ahead. Fernando Torres released Gerrard and
he was able to run through, skip around Robert Green and
slide the ball home with consummate ease.
It was a slow start for the home side, and it was several
minutes before they managed to muster up any composure at
When they did manage to find that composure, though, they
enjoyed a spell of dominance.
Their best chance in that spell came on 27 minutes as Lucas
Neill headed just over when Pepe Reina failed to deal with a
Mark Noble free kick.
Yet their failure to take advantage of their possession was
punished on 38 minutes when Alan Wiley awarded a penalty
after Torres went down under contact from Luis Boa Morte.
After furious protests from the Hammers midfielder,
Gerrard’s initial effort was well saved by Robert Green, but
the England midfielder was alert enough to turn home the
rebound for his second of the game.
It looked all over at that point, but West Ham had a
glorious chance to get back into it when a spectacular error
from Jamie Carragher allowed David Di Michele to burst
through on goal.
The Italian would have surely scored had he not made an
error of similar proportions, losing his footing as he
danced around Reina before picking up a booking as made a
hopeless penalty appeal to spare his blushes.
On the stroke of half time, further errors nearly allowed
Liverpool to make it three – a poor header from James
Tomkins and a weak challenge from Matthew Upson allowed
Torres to head beyond Green, but his effort just eluded the
In the second half, West Ham were enjoying a lot of the
possession but Liverpool were creating all the chances, yet
for a long time neither side really looked like breaking
Liverpool could have added to their lead on the hour,
though, as they ran clear on the counter and Dirk Kuyt went
through on goal, but Green again provided a fine stop.
The pattern continued for some time, but Babel eventually
sealed the victory five minutes from time when, after seeing
his header saved from Kuyt’s cross, he tucked home the loose
Zola may have to wait some time to get a result against the
big boys, but Liverpool have again shown Manchester United
that they will not give up on the title without a fight.