or not to boo?
By Dan Kay - icLiverpool
Last night Liverpool secured three points to move
into the important fourth spot for the first time in
months while arch rivals Everton and Manchester United
both suffered embarrassing defeats. So why did many
supporters leave Anfield feeling a mixture of anger,
frustration and downright disgust at what they had just
While Reds fans' reputation as the most knowledgeable in
the game does not always hold water (as shown by last
night's contrasting receptions to ex-players Steve
McManaman and David James), the Kop faithful are no
fools and knew that victory was imperative in regard to
securing the Holy Grail of footballing achievement these
days, qualification for the Champions League.
Manchester City were duly beaten and a short but
worrying spell without a league win duly ended, and yet
the abiding memory of this game will undoubtedly be the
way Liverpool crudely settled on protecting their
slender lead with at least a quarter of the game still
to play and the after-match comments of manager Gerard
Houllier, defending (no pun intended) his position.
Houllier was unhappy with sections of the crowd who had
been unimpressed by his substitutions in the second
Fit-again Emile Heskey was introduced ahead of Florent
Sinama-Pongolle - who having played at Bolton was surely
further on in his recovery from injury - and Igor Biscan
was brought into midfield despite having been groomed
all season by the manager into a soon-to-be-awesome
centre half. The latter change, in particular, was met
by very audible dissent from all around the ground.
Of even more concern was the way the team played in the
last 25 minutes or so of the game, limiting any
attacking intent to a minimum and inviting City onto
them in the belief that resolute defending would
definitely secure that vital win.
Such tactics could certainly be advocated if the
opponents were of real quality but City, although
possessing a couple of players capable of causing
damage, are threatened by relegation and have not won a
league game since early October - 13 and counting.
Their outstanding FA Cup comeback at Spurs last week
aside, they were absolutely there for the taking at 2-1,
particularly having surrendered their foothold in the
game within a minute of equalising which could, and
should, have demoralised them.
Instead they were afforded an invitation to wrest back
the initiative and take the game to Liverpool, which
they did and were betrayed only by their own lack of
quality in the final third.
A chance to boost goal difference, which could well make
all the difference in May, and lift the spirit of both
crowd and players was rejected in favour of the
narrowest possible win. However, it is the manager's
post-match reaction that causes the greatest concern.
The Liverpool manager could not understand what the
supporters of his own club were moaning about and
queried the dissenters' understanding of his tactics and
In reality, people knew only too well what the manager
was doing and were infuriated because these
over-cautious and unattractive traits have proved to be
tried-and-trusted failures in the past and, furthermore,
so we were assured earlier this season, had been
consigned to the dustbin.
If this Liverpool team was full of honest but limited
battlers, then what we are seeing would be acceptable.
It is when you examine the talent and ability within the
squad that is going to waste because of the restrictive
way the club is managed, that the true extent of
supporters' gripes are revealed.
The manager attemped to explain away the post-match
malaise by shifting the attention onto the players who
apparently were 'edgy' due to their failure to win any
of the previous four games and complained that the
dissent from the crowd was unfair to the players whose
efforts deserved better.
The fact is the vast majority of the unrest in the crowd
was directed at the manager whose team selection,
substitutions and, it is fair to assume, directions from
the bench influenced the team to play in such a manner.
No Liverpool supporter ever likes to hear anyone
connected with the club being booed by their own, it's
not what the club's about and we've always (rightly)
poured scorn on those that do engage in such activities.
But when you're seriously unimpressed with what you've
seen and you know the end result has justified, in the
manager's eyes, the cowardly means, thus making it a
legitimate and worthwhile tactic for future use, what
alternative do you have?
I didn't boo last night but refuse to condemn those who
did. We won but, in some ways, it felt like we'd lost.
Supporters don't pay the ludicrous amounts of money it
costs to get into grounds these days to see their team
lose but if we've been beaten by a team playing better
football on the day most can accept that.
What happened in the last 20 minutes last night was not
Anfield used to be the most uplifting place in the world
to be, whereas now many are already thinking about that
first post-match pint within 20 minutes of the kick-off.
However, until the manager's desire for victory
outweighs his fear of defeat, we will, it appears we
will have to endure more of the same.
unhappy with Kop taunts
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
An angry Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier defended his
side’s safety-first tactics which secured a 2-1 win over
Manchester City and took them into the top four for the
first time this season.
Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard scored the goals but
Liverpool’s stars had to listen to an Anfield crowd who
showed their disappointment with the defensive strategy
in the final half-hour.
Houllier said: “The whole team deserves credit, I am
very proud of my men. We created chances and played
football, so what are they moaning about? Football is a
game of two teams, and City can be very dangerous as
they showed at Spurs last week.”
And on the booing from the Kop in those final minutes,
Houllier said: “I am disappointed for my players because
I think their effort deserved more than that.”
He added: “You have to understand that when you play a
good team it cannot all be one-sided. You have to give
them respect. There were spells when they were better, I
watched them even at Arsenal and they were unfortunate.
“First of all it is a good win, a good three points
against a good team who can play good football.”
For City boss Kevin Keegan it was another
disappointing night as his side have now gone 14 league
games without a victory.
But a defiant City chief, who clearly had the support
from the vocal travelling fans, said: “We played some
good stuff second half and were unfortunate to again end
up with nothing.
“The second was a bad goal to concede. It was scrappy, a
mistake here and a bit of slackness there, but if you do
that in the Premiership you get punished.
“But I believe in these players, they have been a very,
very unlucky team. But you cannot hide from the results.
“But if you try to tell me there are 15 places between
us and Liverpool after this performance, I just do not
“We will just keep soldiering on and try to turn it
around at Old Trafford on Saturday in the FA Cup.”
Gerrard put Reds fourth
Michael Owen grabbed his first goal in over three
months to help Liverpool to a narrow 2-1 victory over
struggling Manchester City at Anfield.
Owen struck after just three minutes and although Shaun
Wright-Phillips levelled on 50 minutes, Reds skipper
Steven Gerrard grabbed the winner just a minute later to
put Liverpool back in the hunt for a UEFA Champions
Michael Owen lit up the gloom of the Merseyside fog
after just three minutes when he picked up the ball just
outside the box and cruised past Richard Dunne before
chipping the ball coolly over the advancing David James.
The relief on Owen's face was there for all to see as he
celebrated his first goal for over three months to put
The Reds ahead.
The goal was the one bright spark of an otherwise dull
opening half that saw neither goalkeeper tested, with
just Steven Gerrard's free kick going close, although
that effort was blasted over the bar.
It was the visitors who awoke quicker at the start of
the second half and City were level five minutes after
the restart when Steve McManaman's mazy foray into
Liverpool's half ended with a lay-off to Shaun
Wright-Phillips who dispatched the ball expertly into
the bottom corner with a crisp low drive.
With Kevin Keegan's side still celebrating, the hosts
took the lead again just a minute later through Steven
Gerrard, although David James had a hand in the goal.
The England goalkeeper slid out to gather the ball from
Owen only to spill the ball into the past of Gerrard and
the Liverpool skipper made no mistake slotting into the
empty net from close range.
Anthony Le Tallec then had his header cleared off by
McManaman - who also cleared from Owen as he tried to
bundle in the rebound.
Owen had a further chance but chipped over James'
crossbar after the former Anfield keeper had again
failed to gather the ball after sliding out at Le
Liverpool's failure to take their chances gave City hope
and they were the aggressors for the final period of the
match, and substitute Antoine Sibierski almost had an
immediate affect but his flicked header just evaded
Daniel van Buyten at the far post.
Sami Hyypia then had to clear off the line from
Wright-Phillips after he had chipped the ball over Dudek
after storming into the right hand side of the area.
Sibierski then put a header over the bar from a great
position as Liverpool increasingly sat back to protect
their slender lead, which they managed to do better in
the closing minutes to record a moral-boosting victory
and inflict yet another defeat on struggling City.