Benitez could axe
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is considering
breaking up his successful Carling Cup side.
Neil Mellor led the way on Wednesday night and set up a
quarter-final meeting against Tottenham by scoring two
goals in the defeat of Middlesbrough.
Benitez also drafted in young players such as Darren
Potter, Stephen Warnock, Zak Whitbread, Richie Partridge
and John Welsh.
The Spanish coach's inexperienced team rose to the
challenge just as they did in the previous round against
But with Steven Gerrard and Antonio Nunez getting close
to fitness after injury, Benitez could change his policy
as the competition reaches a crucial stage.
Gerrard may get a run-out next Monday in a reserves
match after suffering a fractured metatarsal.
Nunez is also well on the road to recovery following a
knee operation after moving from Real Madrid.
Benitez said: "I do not know at this moment who will
play in the next stage.
"Gerrard and Nunez are recovering from injury and we
will have more senior players available. We will see
Mellor wants more goals
Neil Mellor has targeted a regular place in Rafael
Benitez's squad after scoring twice in Wednesday's
Carling Cup win over Middlesbrough.
The young striker knocked out the holders with two goals
in the final seven minutes of the fourth-round tie at
They were the 22-year-old's first goals at home for the
club and came 22 months after his only ever previous
goal for Liverpool in the same competition at Sheffield
And with Benitez suffering a striker shortage as Djibril
Cisse recovers from a broken leg, Mellor has insisted he
can deliver in the Premiership if given the chance.
"I'm made up," said the striker. "It was nice to open my
account at Anfield with a couple of goals. I could
barely stand up when I scored the first goal, I was
falling all over the place I was that excited. And of
course, they were my first goals in front of the Kop.
"Sadly there a couple of injuries at the moment but I
believe that everything happens for a reason so
hopefully I can take my chance with a few more goals on
provides goal-den talent
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
I'm so pleased for Neil Mellor today.
He's had very few chances to play for the Liverpool
first team and had setbacks in being sent out on loan to
West Ham, where his face didn't seem to fit and he never
really figured either.
But he has never complained once and has just got on
trying his best and waiting for his chance.
Last night he took it with two late goals which sealed
victory for Rafael Benitez's youngsters - and which he
By his own admission, he didn't actually have the
greatest of games up until the goals came and thought he
might be dragged off.
That is a refreshingly honest statement from a lad who
might not be gifted with the natural footballing
abilities of many Premiership stars - but who has one
very valuable attribute to his game.
He is an out-and-out goalscorer and by all reports he
kept his head up when things didn't come off and ran
himself into the ground last night for the Reds cause.
Whether he is the answer to Liverpool's striking dilemma
right now, with Heskey and Owen gone, Cisse out for the
season and Baros struggling with a ham-string injury, is
of course another question.
But against Birmingham last Saturday, Liverpool sorely
missed someone to lead the forward line and take on the
defenders. Birmingham were a very poor side but you felt
Liverpool, having missed some great chances, were never
going to score.
Goalscoring is what Mellor does offer to Liverpool, even
if his game is lacking in other areas.
How often have top class strikers gone missing in
matches or hardly had a kick before popping up to finish
a chance and win their side the points?
Mellor proved last night the value of having a
single-minded striker who can turn a game by finding the
Wherever his career goes from here I wish the lad
nothing but good luck.
He's earned his moment in the spotlight and probably
given Benitez some welcome food for thought about his
striking options at the moment.
Losing appetite for Old Trafford battle
THE tabloids are licking their lips at the prospect of
Arsenal being drawn to face Manchester United at Old
Trafford in the next round of the Carling Cup.
But I'm not. The inquest into who chucked what at who
and who insulted whom after their last meeting has
frankly bored me for the last two weeks.
The battle of the buffet's long gone stale for me - but
it looks like the hungry hacks are salivating at the
idea of another petty showdown.
This game should be a mouthwatering prospect because of
the football, not the fighting.
Both sides need to give it a rest and grow up.
Benitez praises youngsters
By Paul Higham - Sky Sports
Rafael Benitez was delighted with his Liverpool
youngsters after they beat Middlesbrough in the Carling
The likes of Neil Mellor, Darren Potter, Zak Whitbread,
Stephen Warnock and Ritchie Partridge all played their
part in the victory.
Two goals from Mellor dumped Boro out of the competition
and earned a place in the quarter finals for Liverpool.
Benitez will now have to decide if he sticks with the
young guns for the next round, but he was keeping his
cards close to his chest.
"The young players played very well," said Benitez.
"These players have a very good mentality, we tried to
play well and keep the ball and I'm delighted.
"We started very well and we had many opportunities and
in the end I think the result was justified.
"We need to enjoy the result, Mellor must be very happy
with his goals but we will have to see for Saturday if
he plays - I think Milan Baros will be ok by then.
"We will see in the next round who plays, we will
hopefully have more players available by then.
"They are good young players who train hard and when
they come in they have done a good job.
"All they have to do now is carry on training hard and
they will get their chance."
Mellor puts Reds through
By Paul Higham - Sky Sports
Liverpool dumped Middlesbrough out of the Carling Cup
with a Neil Mellor double earning a 2-0 win at Anfield.
Liverpool had the better of a low key affair, but the
game looked to be heading to extra time before young
striker Mellor struck late on.
Mellor had worked hard all night and profited when
applying a neat finish to Ritchie Partridge's fine
through ball on 84 minutes to break the deadlock, before
sealing the tie in the final minute.
Liverpool started brightly, especially Igor Biscan who
looks a different player recently, and the Croatian
fired in a shot from distance early on to test Carlo
Darren Pooter was presented with a great chance by
Biscan, but the youngster blazed his shot over the bar
from the right side of the box.
A Biscan charge through the middle nearly brought a goal
when the ball broke for Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who was
thwarted by some alert keeping from Nash.
The ball broke to Stephen Warnock on the left, who
picked out Mellor but the ball was just inches too high
and he could only nod over the bar.
Franck Queudrue had Boro's only noteworthy chance when
he headed over from a corner, but it was the hosts who
had the bulk of the possession, but just could not find
any finishing touches.
Warnock tried with a teasing ball from the left that
Mellor came within inches of converting, but after
dominating Liverpool could, and maybe should, have gone
in 1-0 down at half time.
Mark Viduka managed to bundle the ball through to
Boudewijn Zenden inside the box, and the Dutchman
converted before discovering the linesman had his flag
up for offside, although it looked like a very tight
Joseph-Desire Job had a sight of the Liverpool goal in
the second half but he dragged his shot so badly that it
nearly went out for a throw.
Jerry Dudek nearly presented the visitors with a goal
when he completely lost Stuart Downing's corner, but
Zenden could only head over from virtually on the line.
The Polish keeper atoned for his error by flinging
himself to his left to turn away Doriva's superb dipping
Job came close to breaking the deadlock moments after
Liverpool substitute Ritchie Partridge had a penalty
appeal turned down, when the African marksman struck a
low shot that beat Dudek but rebounded off the foot of
The deadlock was broken on 83 minutes when Partridge
picked out the galloping Mellor with a superb ball into
the box, and he made no mistake in dinking over Nash
into the back of the net.
Mellor made sure of the result with a minute left when
Potter robbed Zenden 25 yards out and Mellor raced into
the box before firing a left-footed drive past Nash,
maybe via a slight deflection.
Middlesbrough had no response and The Reds went into the
last eight of the competition by dumping the holders out
of the contest.