Rotation policy used too soon
By Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post
What happened at Anfield on Saturday
proves Liverpool have a strong squad.
But it’s a shame that they will soon enter a phase of the
season where they will have to use it.
Manchester United and Arsenal, on the other hand, don’t.
They can save their best line-ups for picking up Premier
League points, safe in the knowledge that they have already
qualified for the Champions League knockout stages.
Liverpool don’t have that luxury, but I reckon they would
have if they had played pretty much their best starting XI
in every game so far.
I always think rotation shouldn’t kick in until March or
April, by which time you can let the circumstances of the
season dictate which side you pick.
But from August to December you worry about August to
December. Send out your best players all the time and, like
Arsenal and United, it’s happy days.
Rafael Benitez will be glad he has the strength in depth to
help him win those final two group games in the Champions
League and Liverpool have it in them to join their rivals in
the last 16.
But whether they can keep pace with them in the Premier
League during this vital forthcoming period is another
By Tom Kell - Setanta Sports
Substitute Fernando Torres was widely
recognised as the man who changed the game during
Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, but manager
Rafa Benitez feels the contribution of keeper Jose Reina
should not go unheralded.
Torres came off the bench and scored Liverpool’s first, but
it was Reina’s quick thinking and precise ball that allowed
his fellow Spaniard to prevent another Liverpool stalemate.
Reina also pulled off a fine save to deny former Anfield
midfielder Danny Murphy from giving The Cottagers a
first-half lead and, in doing so, took his record to seven
Premier League clean sheets in twelve games this season.
“Reina is a goalkeeper with real game intelligence,” said
Benitez. “He can read the game and play the kind of balls he
delivered to Torres.
“He can play these passes to strikers if the strikers move
for the ball. A modern goalkeeper needs to be able to read
the game like this. That is the difference.
“You can save 100 balls, but if you don’t do something more
you will be a good goalkeeper – not a top-class goalkeeper.”
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was also keen to praise
Reina for his role in Torres’ goal ten minutes from time.
“He’s a quality goalie. It was probably his assist – he
doesn’t just kick it upfield, he also passes it out at the
Benitez may at last
found his finest XI
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
Like anyone who kicks a habit, the lesson
of ‘all things in moderation’ is a valuable one to learn.
And so it could now prove for Rafael Benitez, who fell off
the rotation wagon on Saturday but dusted himself off to
make the subtle changes that brought a first home Premier
League win for more than two months.
The Liverpool manager has spent the best part of three years
altering his line-ups from game to game. In that time he has
only named consecutive starting XIs once and even that
seemed to only be to deny his harshest critics the
satisfaction of pointing out that he had reached a century
of successive bouts of team-tweaking.
But on Saturday he stuck to the side that destroyed Besiktas
and tinkering with it during the game instead of before
ultimately paid rich dividends.
Admittedly that’s not difficult when you have Fernando
Torres to bring on – but keeping it simple is something
Benitez hasn’t always been able to grasp when judging how
best to shuffle his pack.
Despite a certain phone-in presenter not appreciating the
shambles that was Torres’s last hasty return from injury
against Arsenal two weeks ago, his introduction was
perfectly timed both as insurance against a repeat of a
similar lapse and in terms of the way the game was heading.
In short, a fifth draw in six Premier League games at
Anfield, debilitating to the hopes of even a side still
unbeaten in mid-November.
To that end, it’s no problem whatsoever that Liverpool had
to rely on Torres to breakdown Lawrie Sanchez’s battlers –
all successful title-chasing operations need a Plan B. And
when it works so emphatically, there really is nothing to
worry about. After all, Fulham are no Besiktas.
Granted, they’re certainly not six goals better them but no
matter how dire their distribution is when they get
possession, no struggling side in the Premier League ever
gives in to the pathetic extent the Turks did on Tuesday.
Anyone expecting Liverpool to pick up that baton with a
smooth changeover was always going to be disappointed.
True to form, Fulham, just like their coach Dave Beasant’s
curly mop, refused to budge. Easing a class act like Torres
on for the final stages instead of overloading his workload
by rushing him back in from the start, meant the stage was
perfectly set for the Spaniard.
Sanchez insisted his ‘soft’ shot for the opening goal was a
miss-hit but that’s classic beaten-manager nonsense. When
Dirk Kuyt received the ball in those inside-right areas at
Blackburn a week ago, he desperately looked for help from
his team-mates instead of haring towards goals and his
indecision wrecked those situations.
No such danger when Torres had a similar one as another
evening ebbed towards more frustrating stalemate. His
exploitation of the opportunity was one a Setanta scheduler
mapping out the Christmas rotas would have been proud of –
like all match-winning goalscorers, his instinct ruled out
all other options apart from scoring.
One shift inside and casual placement inside the near post
beyond a stationary (and superbly in-form) goalkeeper later,
it was pretty much game over given the ineptitude of the
opponents at the other end.
Torres’s overall presence had already made that 81st-minute
deadlock-breaker something of an inevitability and fellow
substitute Ryan Babel didn’t exactly allow them to put their
feet up in front of the fire on an unforgiving wintry night
Far clumsier and altogether less convincing than Torres the
Dutchman may be but, unlike Sky’s one-and-three-quarter hour
Champions League pre-amble, there’s never a dull moment.
He played Peter Crouch in for the clinching penalty and in
that moment underlined how Benitez had on this occasion got
his team changes just right – the impact players arriving on
cue to deliver the all-important three points.
Of course, such an outcome at home to Fulham should be
routine and the fact that it wasn’t is one to ponder during
the next irritating two-week break.
But at least Benitez can spend it wondering if the side he
finished Saturday’s game with might finally have provided
him with the elusive nugget of information his encyclopaedic
football knowledge has been missing. The identity of his
Torres makes the difference
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Fernando Torres was the expensive
difference for Liverpool as they claimed a critical victory
over Fulham and maintained their unbeaten league record.
Anfield chief Rafael Benitez purred over the influence of
his big-money signing saying: "That's what you get for the
For Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez similar sentiments came
through gritted teeth as he saw the second chance in his
career to cut Liverpool down to size swept from his grasp.
Back in 1988, it was Sanchez's header that gave little
Wimbledon the FA Cup at Liverpool's expense, arguably the
greatest cup final shock of modern times.
How the Dons gloated over that. The long-ball boys, then
from south London, had destroyed England's most successful
This time around Sanchez's systems and style have barely
changed, and Fulham sweated and toiled at Anfield to bring
Liverpool within minutes of another setback.
Had the hosts not won this one, the critics would have been
written off their title dreams - and they would have been
But £20million Torres arrived from the bench to change all
that. He scored a sublime goal of quality, movement, touch
and clever finishing.
Benitez was also able to throw on Ryan Babel, £11million,
and Lucas, £5million, in that dramatic conclusion and
Sanchez and his men could not cope.
Sanchez then, surprisingly, claimed Torres' goal was mishit
and a soft effort. He also, rightly, insisted that the
blatant trip on Peter Crouch that produced Steven Gerrard's
even later penalty, was outside the box.
Then Sanchez really revealed his inner-most feelings, with a
half-joke that only he failed to laugh at.
Sanchez said: "It wasn't working for them. That is why they
brought on three substitutes. One at £25m, one at £11m and
one at £5m. There should be cap on the price of players you
can bring on, maybe no more than £20m of players.
"Liverpool brought a bit of talent off the bench and it
changed the game. I actually felt that Torres mis-hit his
final shot, it was a soft goal to concede.
"As for the penalty, it wasn't in the box, it wasn't a
TV replays showed Sanchez was right about that, but Crouch
felt it was so blatant that morally Liverpool deserved the
He said: "When Fernando came on he gave us something a
little bit different. The penalty was borderline but I was
almost through on goal, so it is a goalscoring chance."
As for Sanchez's comments on Torres, even if he got the fee
a touch wrong, the more you see the goal to more outstanding
Liverpool even used the long-ball game that has been an
integral part of Sanchez's career as a player and manager at
club and international level.
Torres took a 60-yard Jose Reina punt out of the air in one
sweet movement of his chest, controlled it perfectly with
his next touch and then cut Fulham open with pace, movement
and a deft touch inside the near post. Soft it was not.
But maybe seeing Liverpool use the long-ball art so well,
grated just a little on Sanchez, plus the fact that Benitez
has riches Sanchez can only dream of.
Benitez said: "With Torres' quality, and Babel the same,
that was the difference.
"I have the problem of leaving top players in the stand or
putting them on the bench. But it is a good problem,
Fernando came on and scored a fine goal.
"But Fernando's job is to score goals, I only said 'well
done' to the whole team, they are all the same."
And Benitez revealed also that he had delayed Torres' return
from a second adductor muscle injury because he did not
really believe the striker's claims that he was fully fit.
Torres broke down in his original comeback against Arsenal,
and now Benitez clearly thinks twice when he is assured
everything is fine!
He said: "Fernando was OK to play. But I needed to be sure.
For the Arsenal game, after he had been out for some weeks,
he said to me that he was fully fit, he wasn't. Very soon
into the game that was clear.
"Then in midweek against Besiktas he again assured me he was
fit. But I was not sure.
"He said he was 100 per cent ready but I did not believe
that. This time I watched him train and I knew he was fit."
And Benitez, after his 200th game in charge, added: "If we
want to be contenders, we must win many games in a row.
Fernando's goal was very good, real quality. But when we
signed him we knew he can do things like this.
"Goals like that are what you pay big money for, it was
great quality and showed tremendous skill. It is what you
expect from a player of his value."
hails Torres strike
By Paul Hassall at Anfield - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez praised the impact of
Fernando Torres after the striker came off the bench to fire
Liverpool to a late victory over Fulham.
The Reds had endured an evening of frustration until the
Spain international broke the deadlock on 81 minutes and
Benitez admitted it was always in his mind to bring his
compatriot on if they needed a goal.
"It was good to see Fernando come back and score a really
good goal," said Benitez.
"It was good for him and good for us. But the other strikers
did a good job too. Okay in this case it was Fernando who
scored but Voronin had three or four good chances and I was
pleased with them.
"The idea was to keep him (Torres) on the bench and if we
needed something we knew he was there and the supporters
would always be behind him."
Steven Gerrard sealed a 2-0 victory with a penalty five
minutes from time but Benitez admitted that although he was
confident they would eventually make the breakthrough, the
Reds had struggled to break Lawrie Sanchez's side down.
"I had confidence but we had some problems because we were
pushing forward and it left spaces in the midfield," he
"We had some chances but the problem was that they were very
compact and we were trying to move the ball and attack in
the wide areas because it is not easy playing between the
"We had to be patient but we made a lot of chances and I am
pleased that we scored two goals and won the game."
Peter Crouch was thankful Liverpool
finally got the breakthrough they deserved on the way to a
2-0 Premier League win over Fulham at Anfield.
Liverpool had to wait until the 81st minute before
substitute Fernando Torres put them in front and on the way
to a victory which has put them up to fourth in the table.
The Reds' England forward Crouch was through on goal when he
was brought down for a penalty converted by Steven Gerrard
for the second goal - and he later reflected on a
hard-earned three points.
"We were always on top. But they defended really well, and
it was hard to break them down - so credit to them," said
"Thankfully, we got the goal - and I think we would have had
a few more if we had gone on much longer."
The arrival of Torres made the difference for Liverpool, and
Crouch added: "We have a lot of quality in the squad, and I
thought all the boys did well today.
"But when Fernando came on, he gave us a little bit
As for the penalty, Crouch conceded the foul was close to
the edge of the penalty area - but probably just inside.
"It is borderline - but I am almost through on goal, so it
is a goalscoring chance," he said.
show downs Fulham
By John Sinnott - BBC Sport Online
Fernando Torres' superb individual goal
and a Steven Gerrard penalty pushed Liverpool up to fourth
as Fulham again imploded in the last 10 minutes.
Torres twisted and turned to get the better of Aaron Hughes,
before beating goalkeeper Antti Niemi with a low shot.
Peter Crouch, who hit the bar with a first-half header, won
the penalty when he was fouled by Carlos Bocanegra and
Gerrard's spot-kick was unstoppable.
Niemi was superb for Fulham in goal, making a series of
During midweek Liverpool had thrashed Besiktas 8-0 in the
Champions League, but Fulham proved less accommodating as
Rafa Benitez named an unchanged side for the first time in
over a year.
Prior to Saturday's game, Liverpool had drawn four home
games and for 80 minutes Fulham looked they might be another
side to come away from Anfield with a point.
But not for the first time this season Fulham, who now have
conceded goals in the last 10 times seven times this season,
failed to last the course.
Deploying David Healy and Shefki Kuqi in attack, Fulham
tried to get their midfield players to support them as
quickly as possible in the early stages of the game.
Kuqi's aerial presence caused Liverpool problems, while
former Reds midfielder Danny Murphy tried his luck with a
couple of long-range efforts.
Kuqi worked tirelessly for Fulham, tracking back to help out
And Fulham's defensive organisation ensured Liverpool
struggled to create clear chances in an even first half,
ensuring Niemi had only one real save to make in the opening
period from Sami Hyypia's shot.
Andriy Voronin briefly unsettled the Fuham defence when he
emerged unmarked at the far post, but after controlling the
ball on his chest he misplaced his pass.
Even so Liverpool were unlucky not to go in at the interval
ahead when Crouch's looping header bounced off the bar.
Just after the restart Crouch headed the ball down to
Voronin, but the Ukrainian forward's shot was comfortably
gathered by Niemi.
On 55 minutes the Fulham keeper had an altogehter less
comfortable moment when he was momentarily deceived by Fabio
Aurelio's free-kick, before recovering to make the save.
Soon afterwards Niemi had to push the ball over the bar from
Voronin's rising shot, though Voronin was to completely miss
his kick when Liverpool's next chance arrived.
Niemi's best save of the game came from Yossi's Benayoun's
chip which looked goalbound before the Finn got one hand to
the ball and pushed it past the post.
Benayoun had an influential game for Liverpool and a clever
pass released Voronin, but the Ukrainian's shot flashed past
On came Ryan Babel and Torres and the Spanish striker's
arrival proved decisive.
Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina played a part in Torres'
goal, his huge kick finding his Spanish compatriot deep in
the Fulham half.
Torres' tricky bamboozled Hughes and having created space
the former Atletico Madrid beat Niemi with a low shot inside
the near post.
Crouch was then tripped by Bocanegra and Gerrard's powerful
penalty gave Niemi no chance.