'fancies' Reds to beat City
Liverpool star Steven Gerrard has set his
sights on beating Manchester City in 10 days' time as the
race for Champions League places heats up.
Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat at Arsenal - where the Reds
have not won for a decade - along with a similar reverse for
Tottenham at Wolves and Aston Villa's 1-1 draw with
Manchester United handed the initiative to City.
They are level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool but
have two matches in hand and the fixture list pitches the
two together at Eastlands a week on Sunday.
With third place now seemingly a distant hope after the
Gunners extended their advantage to eight points, Gerrard
has called for all efforts to be put into beating Roberto
"We have got to use a lot of positives from the (Arsenal)
match," he said.
"There are plenty of teams who go there and get played off
the park. I certainly feel disappointed leaving with
"We played against a fantastic Arsenal team with quality
players who can open up any team in the world, and they did
not really create many chances.
"It was just one mistake in our defence and they scored from
"The way we played over the 90 minutes, we certainly
deserved a point.
"The lads are gutted after putting in all that effort and
getting nothing, but sometimes that happens and you just
have to get on with it.
"There is nothing we can do about this result now. The lads
will reflect on it and we have a very big game coming up
against Manchester City.
"But if we play like we did at Arsenal, then I fancy us to
"I feel if we are on our game and playing well, we are a
match for anyone."
An eighth defeat of the season - six more than last year
when they ran champions Manchester United a close second -
is one of the most damaging statistics for Liverpool.
Seven of those came in the first four months of the
campaign. By contrast, Manchester City have lost four and
none so far at Eastlands.
The Liverpool captain knows their early form has cost them
dearly but held up their seven-match unbeaten league run
which came to an end at the Emirates Stadium as a yardstick
for the remainder of the season.
"We are where we are in the table because we were very
inconsistent earlier in the season," said the England
"But look at Liverpool's performances over the last six or
seven games - if we show that consistency, then we will
challenge for the league."
Gerrard's form has, like the team's, been patchy this season
with niggling injuries preventing him from putting in the
kind of inspirational performances he has gained a
He now feels he is close to getting back to his best but
said it was little consolation if it was not benefiting the
"I am really happy with the way I played myself [at Arsenal]
but I get nothing from that because we came away with
nothing," added the 28-year-old.
"But my form is improving."
Gerrard blasts 'crazy' decision
Steven Gerrard believes it was 'crazy'
that Liverpool were not awarded a late penalty in their 1-0
defeat at Arsenal.
Liverpool were trailing to Abou Diaby's header when the
visitors vehemently called for the award of a spot-kick
after Gerrard's free-kick deep into injury-time struck Cesc
The Arsenal captain was stood on the edge of the area when
the incident occurred and referee Howard Webb allowed play
to continue before moments later blowing the final whistle.
Gerrard led the protests to Webb at the end of the game and
the Liverpool captain was unhappy that the officials did not
spot the handball.
"The referee told the Liverpool wall in the first half that
if anyone raises their arms above their waist he was going
to give a penalty," said the midfielder.
"So for some crazy reason he didn't give it. He told me
after the game he hadn't seen it.
"It was unbelievable and I can't believe he didn't see
someone raise their hands in the wall.
"We know over the course of a season sometimes you will get
decisions and sometimes you won't, but something so clear as
that was hard to take, especially with the referee being
"I would say he is one of the best referees in the league so
I am very surprised he didn't see it."
predicts tight finish
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes the
race for fourth place will go right down to the end of the
The Reds missed the chance to go clear in the battle to
claim fourth spot after being beaten 1-0 at Arsenal on
Liverpool currently hold the coveted fourth spot, but
Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa are all battling
to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League.
Benitez was disappointed to see their recent unbeaten run
come to an end at the Emirates and has called on his side to
bounce back in their next league outing, which is a testing
trip to City.
"When you lose after nine games without losing you have to
be disappointed," said Benitez. "They (Arsenal) are a good
team but now we think about the future.
"The race for the fourth position will be to the end and we
have to be ready for the next game.
"It is difficult for anyone to win too many games in a row.
The main thing is to be calm and to keep going."
Benitez is also waiting to find out the full extent of the
injury picked up by Jamie Carragher against the Gunners.
Carragher was forced off in the second half with a groin
problem and Benitez is hopeful the injury is not too
"Carra has a problem with his adductor," added Benitez. "It
seems like it is not serious but he could not carry on.
"We will see in one or two days and see how he feels."
Arsene Wenger's hoodoo
over Rafa Benitez continues
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Life's great certainties are death and
taxes but perhaps the time has come to add another constant
to that list.
After another fruitless, frustrating trip to the Emirates
Stadium, Rafa Benitez must surely be wondering whether the
hoodoo Arsene Wenger has over him in London will ever end.
Bursting with determination and pushing themselves to the
physical limit to maintain a seven-match unbeaten run, a
sense of injustice infuses Liverpool’s squad today and it is
easy to see why that is so.
They have arguably never had better prospects of beating
Arsenal on enemy territory since Titi Camara’s winner in
February 2000 than this but a series of fine details – and a
referee’s error – prevented them turning promise into
Had David Ngog shown great composure and had Jamie Carragher
not tweaked his groin at a vital moment, Liverpool would
have been able to protect a one-goal lead; as it was, Ngog
missed, Carragher went off and Arsenal took full advantage.
Yet worse of all was the fact Howard Webb refused to point
to the spot in the dying seconds when a Steven Gerrard
free-kick was handled by Cesc Fabregas; that the Arsenal
skipper later admitted he had committed a crime rubbed salt
in open wounds.
What a pity. Giving the impression once again that the
shoots of recovery are continuing to grow with a dogged
display, the Reds deserved so much more; as it is, they must
start to build all over again.
If the opening to the Merseyside derby had those spectators
who were close to the action wincing, due to the ferocity of
certain challenges, the start to this contest was a much
more reserved affair, befitting the subdued atmosphere in
Highbury, of course, was known as the ‘The Library’ and it
appears that nearly four years after moving into this
sparkling arena, the locals are still no nearer to creating
an intimidating welcome for visitors.
Not that Liverpool complained. Far from it. Anxious to build
on their impressive recent run of form, but mindful of the
fact they had contested a war of attrition four days
earlier, the gentle opening suited them.
Arsenal might have had a couple of half chances in the first
30 minutes – notably when unmarked William Gallas headed a
Fabregas corner high and Nicklas Bendtner blazed over – but
it was not one way traffic by any means.
Frustratingly, however, Liverpool’s wastefulness in
possession meant they were unable to exert real pressure on
Arsenal’s defence; time and again moments of promise would
come to nothing because of skew-whiff passing.
Such a shame. If Dirk Kuyt had got his angles right or had
Emiliano Insua not been so rash in wanting to release the
ball, then Steven Gerrard would have been sent rampaging
The scowl that Gerrard flashed at both men immediately after
they had found a red and white shirt rather than a black and
gold one told its own story but, in a curious way, it was
encouraging to see the captain so animated.
By his own admission, Gerrard has, for one reason or
another, been short of top form this season but in the last
10 days there have been glimpses that he is ready to go
through the gears again.
Every time Liverpool moved to within range of Arsenal’s
18-yard box, Gerrard came into view, stalking with menace
and pressurising Gallas, Thomas Vermaelen, Emmanuel Eboue
and Gael Clichy whenever possible.
Alas, the ball he so desperately craved never arrived and
the biggest disappointment of a poor first period was the
man who might have been able to help, Alberto Aquilani, was
back on Merseyside recovering from a stomach upset.
It was on this ground in a Carling Cup tie, remember, that
Aquilani was first introduced to Liverpool supporters and
briefly showed himself to have an impressive range of
Admittedly he has not had much opportunity to build on that
since but the feeling persisted this would have been an
ideal game to let him take his chance – Arsenal, after all,
are not the type of team known for kicking opponents.
Gerrard, though, is just as good a creator as he is finisher
and, given the way he was moving with intent, it was perhaps
inevitable it would be he who created Liverpool’s best
opening of the game early in the second period.
His beautifully weighted ball on 53 minutes should have
yielded the first goal but, to every Liverpudlian’s
exasperation, David Ngog never once gave the impression he
was confident when running towards Manuel Almunia.
With courage in his convictions, the young Frenchman would
surely have put Liverpool in front; had the opening fell to
a fit Fernando Torres, for instance, there would have been
only one outcome.
But, at this moment in time, Ngog just lacks that crucial
bit of self-belief in games of such importance; ineffective
in the Merseyside derby, it was heavy weather for him again
How they were made to pay. Wenger’s men had already
fashioned a number of threatening breaks, quick runners on
the flanks trying to speed into dangerous areas, but
Liverpool kept defending stoically – that was until they
cracked on 72 minutes.
In the blink of an eye, Fabregas and Bendtner combined to
send substitute Tomas Rosicky scampering down the left, who
in turn fired a cross into the six yard area that Abou Diaby
headed powerfully into Pepe Reina’s net.
Watch the replays of the goal again and you will see Diaby
was unmarked as he settled the outcome; had Carragher been
on the pitch, the Frenchman almost certainly would have
found himself with some company.
Still, there is no point complaining. These things happen in
football and when Ryan Babel saw a powerful drive tipped
onto the bar by Almunia, it was apparent Liverpool’s luck
was out. Webb’s error in injury time merely compounded
Yet there is no point stewing on this result; it is not a
fatal blow to ambitions and, for once, it is possible to
take positive from a negative. What better place to do that
than at Manchester City on Sunday week?
race still wide open
Arsene Wenger reckons the Premier League
title race remains "wide open" after Arsenal beat Liverpool
to move within six points of Chelsea.
The Gunners were 1-0 winners at the Emirates Stadium, with a
second-half headed goal from Abou Diaby sealing the victory.
But Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was left fuming,
claiming his side should have had an injury-time penalty
when Cesc Fabregas appeared to handle the ball from a Steven
Referee Howard Webb waved away Liverpool's appeals and
Benitez said: "We are really disappointed with the decision
of the hand ball. It was very, very clear. The players were
on the line. It was a hand ball. It has to be a penalty if
you see the replay.
"During the game you do not realise how clear the hand ball
was but watching the replay the referee was there."
Television replays appeared to suggest the hand was outside
the box, however, and Wenger denied Liverpool should have
had a spot kick.
He said: "It was a controversial situation. The free kick
against us was harsh. Steven Gerrard didn't deserve the free
kick he got and afterwards Cesc Fabregas maybe touched the
ball with his hand but it shouldn't have been a free kick."
Wenger was just delighted to get the win after suffering
successive defeats against Manchester United and Chelsea.
With Chelsea losing against Everton and United drawing with
Aston Villa it means the Gunners are now six points behind
Chelsea and five behind United.
And Wenger believes that has thrown the title race open once
He said: "I said after the Chelsea game we will fight until
the last second of the season. We did that tonight and
that's what we will continue to do. Everybody can drop
points everywhere. It is open for everybody.
"I don't see any mathematical reason why we shouldn't
believe. It can change quickly. We had a big shock in our
last two games and the most important thing was to recover
and come back with a win.
"We were resilient. We showed good discipline and in the end
we got the goal which made it a massive result for us.
"Nobody realises what it is to play Manchester United,
Chelsea and Liverpool on the trot. Physically and mentally
it is very demanding especially with the two massive
disappointments. It shows the team is solid and mentally
One sour note for Wenger was that Russian midfielder Andrey
Arshavin limped off with a hamstring injury and Samir Nasri
was substituted with a head injury which left him nauseous.
Wenger also quashed talk that Fabregas was on his way to
Barcelona, which both the player and the Spanish club have
"Nothing plus nothing is nothing," said Wenger.
rues 'clear penalty'
By James Dall - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez felt his
side were denied a 'very clear' penalty in their 1-0 loss to
Arsenal on Wednesday.
The Reds found themselves trailing after Abou Diaby headed
the Gunners in front late in the second period.
But in the final seconds of the match Steven Gerrard saw a
free-kick connect with Cesc Fabregas' hand, as the Spaniard
stood in the Arsenal wall.
Liverpool strongly appealed for at least a free-kick, with
Fabregas positioned around on or near the18-yard line, but
referee Howard Webb waved away appeals.
Asked whether he felt his side should have been awarded a
penalty, Benitez told Sky Sports: "I think so. I think that
it was very clear.
"The referee said to our players to be careful and not put
your hands too high. It was unbelievable to see the replay
and how he could not see it.
"I think we have to analyse the game on not just one
decision. Clearly it was a mistake, but the game was
difficult against a good team.
"I think in the second half we were pushing and could have
got at least a point."
Gunners back into race
Arsenal breathed new life into their faint
Premier League title hopes with a narrow 1-0 win over
Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Abou Diaby finally got the breakthrough on 72 minutes when
he headed in Tomas Rosicky's cross as the Gunners bounced
back from successive defeats to Manchester United and
Liverpool, who are just ahead of Manchester City in fourth
place, almost grabbed a late equaliser when substitute Ryan
Babel saw his shot tipped onto the bar.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger made changes from the side beaten
by Chelsea at the weekend, which left them some nine points
off the leaders, However, the Blues' subsequent defeat by
Everton tonight means that deficit was quickly reduced.
Theo Walcott dropped to the bench, as Nicklas Bendtner, who
had been out following groin surgery, made a welcome first
start since October.
While Arsenal had been faltering, Liverpool slowly moved
themselves back up into the top four.
The Gunners' frailty at the back was exposed again on five
minutes when a free-kick bobbled alarmingly around the
six-yard box before Manuel Almunia gathered.
At the other end, William Gallas - yet to confirm whether he
will be staying with Arsenal - headed over.
Liverpool remained patient, although David Ngog snatched at
his shot after working some space at the edge of the Arsenal
Much like at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the Gunners had
plenty of possession, but without looking dangerous in the
Samir Nasri's low ball in from the right was cut out by
Martin Skrtel, as Bendtner arrived behind him through the
The Dane was then played in by Andrey Arshavin, but shot
Arsenal were finally having a decent spell, with Nasri's
shot charged down by Emiliano Insua.
The Argentina defender then saw his goal-bound effort
deflect off Thomas Vermaelen.
On 34 minutes, Nasri, who earlier appeared to take a blow to
the side of his face, was replaced by Tomas Rosicky.
Neither side were able to make the most of some promising
build-up play as the first half drew to a close.
Arsenal, though, had more urgency following the restart, as
Arshavin drilled the ball into the side-netting.
At the other end, Lucas Leiva drilled his angled shot over
after being played into the right side of the Arsenal
penalty area by Dirk Kuyt.
Steven Gerrard's determination released Ngog down the
middle, but Gallas recovered to make a brilliant saving
tackle just inside the 18-yard box.
Rosicky's touch was then too heavy after the Czech Republic
winger was put clear down the left channel by Arshavin.
Arsenal were in the ascendancy now.
Bendtner's deft chip almost crept over the line after Jose
Reina could only make a partial save, but Daniel Agger
However, on 63 minutes, referee Howard Webb showed Bendtner
a yellow card for diving under a challenge by Agger,
although replays suggested there may have been minimum
Arshavin missed his kick when arriving at pace in the
penalty area to meet Gael Clichy's cross, with Rosicky
blasting the loose ball over.
Arsenal made the breakthrough after 72 minutes, when Diaby
arrived on cue at the far post to head in Rosicky's
Liverpool felt they had a strong penalty claim when Gerrard
went down under a mass of red shirts, appearing to be
blocked by Diaby, but the referee waved play on.
The visitors almost snatched an equaliser with four minutes
left, but Almunia tipped a dipping drive from substitute
Babel onto the crossbar.
In stoppage time, there was more controversy when a dubious
free-kick from Gerrard appeared to strike Cesc Fabregas on
the hand, but referee Webb was not interested.