After The Match 


Liverpool-PSV 1-0 (0-0)               11.4. 07                         CL
Goals: Crouch (67)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Agger, Hyypia, Riise, Zenden, Alonso, Sissoko, Pennant, Crouch, Bellamy
Subs: Fowler (Bellamy 17), Gonzalez (Alonso 72),
Paletta (Agger 78)
Not used: Dudek, Gerrard, Mascherano, Carragher
Yellow: Salcido (42)
Red: Marcellis (64)
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Attendance: 41,447
Shots on target: 6-3
Shots off target: 5-1
Blocked shots: 1-0
Possession: 46.3-53.7
Fouls conceded: 6-18
Corners: 2-4
Offsides: 1-3
Yellow: 0-1
HEADLINES "We know Chelsea
and they
know us."

     Rafael Benitez

1304: Perfect lift for Crouch
1304: Dalglish excited by Liverpool's European revival
1204: Rafa: No clear favourite for CL
1204: Alonso relishing semi-final clash with Chelsea
1204: Mind games start ahead of Chelsea semi-final
1104: Benitez expects Crouch goals
1104: Reds ease past luckless PSV

Perfect lift for Crouch

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

It may be an exaggeration to suggest Peter Crouch has cemented his future at Anfield with his recent blistering spell.

Rafa Benitez has never suggested he wanted to sell the popular striker, while Crouch couldn’t be any more emphatic about his desire to stay on Merseyside.

However, it wasn’t that long ago rumours of a possible summer exit were gathering pace, so the forthright statements on the issue from player and manager have been a welcome consequence of his impressive 17-goal haul.

It’s little wonder Benitez is keen to keep the striker because he epitomises the kind of signing he values most.

In the summer of 2005, Crouch wasn’t the ‘big name’ player the Sky Sports generation craved when Benitez was pondering his striking options.

But Benitez will always prefer young, hungry players with much to prove, rather than superstars.

“I will put my reputation as a manager on Crouch being a good player for us,” Benitez said, in those distant days, now forgotten, when his new signing was trying to score his first goal.

Crouch has since succeeded in turning himself into an ‘A-lister’, seizing an opportunity few predicted would come his way three seasons ago.

And, having grabbed the chance, not surprisingly, he has no intention of letting it slip.

“It’s obviously really pleasing to hear what the manager said about keeping me at the club,” said Crouch.

“The manager is someone who likes to keep his cards close to his chest and sometimes you’re not sure what he’s thinking, so I was happy when I read those comments.

“I knew there were a lot of rumours earlier in the season about other clubs being interested, but I always made my feelings clear when I was asked about the future.

“There’s no way I’d want to leave Liverpool. Where do you go from Liverpool other than to a club at a lower level?

“I love it here and being at a top four club you know you’ve a chance to play in the Champions League every year and continue to compete for trophies.

“I also think there’s a great team developing here and with the help of the new owners we could put in a serious challenge for the Premiership over the next few years. I want to be part of that.”

Numerous recent events have helped Crouch’s cause.

The conclusion of the takeover means Benitez should not have to raise funds through significant sales in order to fund transfers he may see as a priority.

The school of thought that argued doubling money on Crouch made economic sense, even if it was a risk, seems utterly redundant now.

Second, and most importantly, the rate of improvement in a striker with unique talents means if Crouch is valued at £14m today, he should be worth considerably more in the years to come.

Lest we forget, he’s currently competing with Kaka for the Champions League golden boot.

“It’s been going really well for me recently. I’m on a good scoring run and to be in with a chance of finishing top scorer in the Champions League is great,” he said.

“UEFA say I’m on six goals, but I’m definitely counting the qualifying game because that was an important one for us.

“To be up there with such a quality player as Kaka is fantastic. I do take a lot of satisfaction from that. But if you ask me what I’d prefer, I’d rather the team won the Champions League than finish top scorer.

“I feel over the last few years I have proved myself at the top level, whether it’s been the step to a club like Liverpool, the Champions League or internationals.

“That’s down to working with such a good manager who always wants you to keep on improving.

“There are parts of my game I’m still looking to work on. People have mentioned my heading quite a bit this season.

“To be fair, I’ve always scored goals with my head, but there were a few occasions earlier in the season when I should have scored headers. It’s something I was aware of so to get a few recently was pleasing.

“In a funny way, I think the nose operation came at a good time in the season where a little break has done me the world of good.

“When I came back I felt really fresh and sharp and it’s gone on from there. There were a few of us who took time to hit our best form earlier in the season, but now we seem to be clicking at the same time which bodes well for the big games to come.”

If Crouch can eclipse Kaka, the chances are he’ll have helped Liverpool overcome yet another battle with Chelsea.

The striker wasn’t too impressed at being ‘outed’ as a former Chelsea fan on TV in midweek, and is only too pleased to set the record straight.

“I was stitched up a bit with that,” he explained.

“When I was younger my dad did take me to see Chelsea, but when I was with my mates I was more a QPR fan, so it’s not like I was ever a big Chelsea supporter.

“You’ve also got to remember the Chelsea back then was nothing like the Chelsea it is now. I remember going along there when they were in the old Second Division.

“Put it this way, there’s no question where my allegiance is now. I’m firmly in the red camp. The same applies to my dad.

“He’s been travelling to our European games with Jamie Carragher’s dad and his friends, so you don’t have to worry who he’ll want to win.

“We know what the hype is going to be like over the next two weeks and it’s already started. I’m looking forward to everything about it.

“Last time Liverpool played Chelsea at this stage I was on the outside looking in, hoping rumours that Liverpool were interested in me were true and wishing I could be part of such a big game.

“Now it’s going to happen you just want it to come about.

“You’re always focused on the game , but there’s no escaping the attention of such a massive match.”

Dalglish excited by
Liverpool's European revival

By Adrian Curtis - Liverpool Daily Post

Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish is excited by the potential for growth at the club as Rafael Benitez’s side close in on a second Champions League final in three seasons.

Dalglish insists former Valencia manager Benitez holds the key to what happens next for 2005 winners Liverpool, after they cruised past PSV Eindhoven in the quarter-finals.

Barclays Premiership rivals Chelsea block their passage to the Athens final, guaranteeing at least one English team will appear in the May 23 UEFA showpiece.

Dalglish said: “Rafa did well at Valencia and his team is brilliantly organised. They are really well prepared.

“The players have great belief and confidence in what he is telling them to do. When you get those two things together it is reflected on the pitch, especially in Europe, it sticks out like a sore thumb.”

Dalglish won three European Cups as a player with Liverpool and went on to successfully manage the team.

He shares in the optimism surrounding the club following the recent investment by American George Gillett and Tom Hicks, and the projected move to a new 60,000-seat stadium.

He said: “Liverpool won the Champions League two years ago and there are a lot of positive things happening at the club.

“There is the prospect of a new stadium in three years, prospect of the Champions League and the prospect of Rafa having a few extra shillings to spend.

“He has always had money to spend, it’s not like they have been paupers, and now they’ve inherited this money.

“He’s always been able to buy players and he’s bought a few but it is positive and we are looking forward to see what will happen.”

Liverpool and Chelsea have been joined in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester United, with AC Milan making up the quartet.

Dalglish believes the progress of the three English clubs demonstrates the strength of the Premiership.

Dalglish added: “It was comfortable for Liverpool against PSV.

“It was hard to see how they put Arsenal out but they missed Alex, who is a really good player.

“Liverpool have a one-in-four chance. I’d love to see Liverpool in the final, whoever else joins them doesn’t really matter.

“It’s a great reflection on the Premiership that they have three of the four semi-finalists. That speaks volumes for the quality of the Premiership.

“There are a lot of fantastic players in the Champions League, it is great to watch and that’s been reflected by three of the four teams in the semi-finals.”

Rafa: No clear favourite for CL


Rafael Benitez feels any of the Champions League semi-finalists can win the trophy - and would not fear facing Manchester United in the final.

The Liverpool boss - already embroiled in a war of words with Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho - insists he has not been intimidated by Manchester United's sensational seven-goal performance against Roma.

That came just 24 hours before an efficient Liverpool did "a very good, professional job" to see off PSV Eindhoven 1-0 in Wednesday's quarter-final second leg to complete a convincing 4-0 aggregate victory.

The difference between the style and entertainment value of the performances by United and Liverpool, though, was marked.

Benitez was complimentary and careful with his praise for United but he is also unlikely to have been impressed by the Italians' defending. It would be hard to image a Benitez team allowing United so much freedom on the wings and through the heart of midfield.

And while many are seriously worried about the security and policing problems of having 80,000 Liverpool and Manchester United fans together in Athens for the final on May 23, Benitez would relish the challenge.

He said: "What I saw from United didn't surprise me, we know they have been playing really well in recent weeks.

"Then when they started scoring the goals it became harder for Roma, who maybe felt that it had become impossible very early on in the game.

"And if you lack confidence like that, and the other team are playing well, it is always more difficult to respond."

Liverpool must face Chelsea in the semi-finals on April 25 in London and May 1 at Anfield before they can really start dreaming of a clash with United - or even a repeat of the 2005 final against AC Milan.

But Benitez is confident he can take his side to their second final in three seasons.

He said: "We are in a very good position, to be in the semi-final is surely a great success for us. To do that twice in three years is really important, but now we want to make sure we win the final again.

"We were not intimidated by the football we saw from Manchester United, we have always known they have great character, and they are in very good form at the moment.

"But if I was offered the chance of playing Manchester United in the final I would be happy and say yes, because that means I will be in the final too. We would be confident of success if that occurred."

He added: "It is difficult to say who is favourite. You can talk about Milan, they are a really good team. The same applies to Manchester United and the way they played this week, and of course Chelsea are also a good team.

"It will be really difficult for all of us, anyone of us can win it now."

But before anyone starts booking flights to Athens, Benitez and Liverpool will have to survive another battle with Mourinho.

The pair have already crossed swords verbally, with Mourinho pointing out Liverpool have only one trophy to concentrate on while Benitez says the Portuguese coach used to be his friend before the Spaniard beat him.

Benitez added: "This is not the way I want it. My aim is really to give the players the chance to be the stars, not for the managers to be talking.

"I do not like to be talking about other managers, but each one of us will decide how we play these games. Really the key when you talk about Chelsea is their players, it should be about Lampard, Drogba, Terry, Cech or Essien. Not about the managers.

"I do not really like it being all about me and Mourinho. But as I have said, we used to have a good relationship but as soon as we started winning he started talking.

"He is the same with Arsene Wenger and the same with Sir Alex Ferguson. You know him, he likes to do this."

And Benitez braced himself for a extended war of words.

He said: "We know that Chelsea will now be in all the media. They will talk about Mourinho and they will talk about their club.

"But the key is really the quality of the players they have. Everyone can say things, but the difference will be on the pitch.

"It could be an advantage to play second at Anfield, if we can do our job in the away game then this stadium and fans produce a fantastic atmosphere.

"They did it for the semi-final two seasons ago, and I know they can do it again for us.

"But it will be hard, Chelsea are very good on the counter-attack away from home. Their win in Valencia showed that, it showed the quality they have in their squad and that they were physically stronger."

Alonso relishing semi-final
clash with Chelsea

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Xabi Alonso says Liverpool are braced for a Chelsea revenge mission in the Champions League semi-final, but is banking on the Anfield factor to play another major role in the latest epic between the clubs.

Jose Mourinho and his players have shown signs of mental scarring ever since Luis Garcia’s famous winning goal two years ago.

Mourinho said earlier this week ‘it’s the only time a crowd has scored a goal’.

Such withering comments are music to the ears of the Liverpool players, who believe The Kop will rise to the occasion yet again as the Reds seek a place in Athens.

“We know Chelsea very well because we’ll now have faced them three years in a row in semi-finals. We’ll be looking to repeat those results,” said Alonso, who starred in last night’s comfortable 4-0 aggregate win over PSV Eindhoven.

“They’ll be talking about revenge but at the moment we’re a confident team. They’ve done a good job to beat Valencia, but we both know it’s going to be very close again.

“You can use the memories of two years ago as motivation, but our squad and theirs have changed a lot since then. There are a lot of new players who weren’t involved in those games.

“What will be the same is the passion and commitment of both teams and our supporters. It will be a big factor.

“We felt the power of the Anfield crowd two years ago and again against Barcelona this season.

“There’s no doubt this is a big advantage for us. I’m not sure what kind of affect the crowd has on them, but I do know it makes a big difference to us and psychologically is a help.

“The first leg at Stamford Bridge may be the key because we know we’ll need to have a good position when we come back to Anfield. Then when we come here it will be special. We all know that.”

As well as Garcia’s strike in 2005, last season the Spaniard and John Arne Riise inspired Rafa Benitez’s side to a 2-1 win in the FA Cup semi-final.

“We know how to beat them and although we will show them respect, we will have the same belief as we had two years ago that we can win,” said Alonso.

“We are a better team now than we were two years ago, but that doesn’t mean we’ll play better or get the same result.

“To do that we must prepare in exactly the same way and show the same commitment we did in those games when we were successful.”

Mind games start
ahead of Chelsea semi-final

By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

Rafael Benitez last night cranked up the mind games with Jose Mourinho after his Liverpool side confirmed a Champions League semi-final rematch with Chelsea.

Peter Crouch’s 87th-minute strike was enough to see off 10-man PSV Eindhoven in the second leg of their quarter-final tie and secure an easy 4-0 aggregate success.

Attention immediately turned to the forthcoming all-Premiership clash against rivals Chelsea, with Liverpool having overcome the Londoners at the same stage of the competition on their way to lifting the trophy in 2005.

That victory was the start of a rapid deterioration in the relationship between Benitez and Mourinho, the Portuguese further upset when his team lost to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final last year and the Community Shield at the Millennium Stadium at the start of the current campaign.

And Benitez said: “We were good friends until we started beating them, then he changed his mind.

“Jose has a very good relationship with the managers that he beats but he is always fighting with the managers of all the top clubs.

“We know Chelsea and they know us. They are a very, very difficult team to play against. But as a manager, you must always have confidence you can progress.”

The first leg of the semi-final takes place at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, April 25, with the return at Anfield the following Tuesday, May 1.

There is even a chance of a repeat of the Istanbul final of 2005, with AC Milan last night winning 2-0 at Bayern Munich to set up a meeting with Manchester United.

Of Liverpool’s semi-final opponents, Benitez added: “We know Chelsea are a very good team, in the last five years they’ve spent a lot of money on players and have a very good squad.

“If you want to be in the finals you need a very good squad, and Chelsea have that so they should be competing for every competition.

“We play the second leg at Anfield and if we can do something at Stamford Bridge them maybe we can have and advantage.

“But you could see against Valencia that they are dangerous on the counter-attack.

“But we need to think about the Premiership first and finishing in the top four and then think about Chelsea.”

Benitez expects Crouch goals

By Robin Hackett - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez believes Peter Crouch will keep firing on all cylinders until the end of the season.

The England striker scored the only goal of the game in Liverpool's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday night, and Benitez feels his fine run of form can continue right through till the summer.

"I think that now he has the confidence that all strikers need when they start scoring goals," he told Sky Sports after the game.

"He can keep scoring goals until the end of the season."

Crouch himself also was also in confident mood after the game.

"I've been pleased with my form in the Champions League. It's a fantastic competition," he said.

"Hopefully I can keep that run going."

Crouch admitted, however, that the match was not a classic.

"I don't think it was much of a spectacle, but we did a job, got the result," he said.

"We did most of the work in the first leg obviously and it was just a case of seeing it out today, and that's what we did well.

"It was a strange game. All the lads were up for it. If it had stayed 0-0, I'm sure you would've seen more urgency."

They now go on to face Chelsea in the semi-final in a repeat of the clash in 2005 when Liverpool went on to win the competition, and Benitez was cautiously optimistic about his side's chances.

"We know that it will be really difficult because Chelsea is a very good team," he said.

"But we all know that if we play at our level, we can beat them."

With the first leg taking place at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool could have a slight advantage in playing the decider at home, but Benitez does not feel it is significant.

"Chelsea are a good team playing away - you could see the other day against Valencia.

"There is not a great advantage. Maybe a little bit." Chelsea are also involved in the FA Cup and the title race, which could also be seen as an advantage for Liverpool.

"It could be, but they have a big squad and a lot of very good players.

"They have enough players and enough quality for playing a lot of competitions."

Reds ease past luckless PSV

By James Pearson - Sky Sports

Liverpool are through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League following a 1-0 win and 4-0 aggregate success over
10-man PSV Eindhoven.

The damage was done in the first leg as The Reds cruised home 3-0 although the Eredivisie giants were determined to avoid another thrashing and were solid prior to losing a man.

PSV's resistance was finally broken when Peter Crouch netted just four minutes after debutant Dirk Marcellis was bizarrely dismissed for a slightly late challenge on Boudewijn Zenden.

Liverpool now tackle Chelsea in what should be an intriguing re-match of their Champions League semi-final clash from 2005 when Luis Garcia's controversial strike decided the tie

Jefferson Farfan should have headed PSV into an early lead at Anfield, but his header was straight at Jose Reina from Philip Cocu's pin-point left-wing cross.

The Reds suffered a blow shortly after when Craig Bellamy could not continue after tweaking knee ligaments blocking Csaba Feher's delivery into the box.

The good news for Bellamy and Rafa Benitez was that after inspection by the club's doctors the injury was not thought to be too serious and not a long-term threat.

Liverpool's first chance of note arrived in the 26th minute with Peter Crouch forcing PSV keeper Gomes in a fine save after Jermaine Pennant playing in a dangerous cross.

Zenden nearly put The Reds ahead on the stroke of half-time, but his fizzed free-kick just wide of the upright with Gomes scrambling away to his left.

Farfan, like in the opening 45 minutes, nearly scored within minutes of the re-start with Reina making a fine block to deny the striker from distance.

Liverpool responded and Crouch's shot from the angle was always drifting wide of Gomes's far post as the home side looked to up the ante.

Any hopes of PSV getting back into the game were dashed shortly after the hour mark when Marcellis was astonishingly dismissed for a catching Zenden.

The visitors' hopes were ended minutes later when Crouch was well-placed to net from close-range after Fowler turned quickly to play the ball back into the six-yard box.

John Arne Riise played in a dangerous delivery which Gomes could only parry towards the touchline, but instead of accepting the corner, Fowler kept the ball in play for Crouch to score.

Former PSV star Zenden was looking lively to The Reds and he was unlucky to see his lashed effort drift just over Gomes's crossbar.

Crouch could well have bagged a second of the game, but he firstly failed to keep his header on target while a drive from outside the box was comfortably blocked by Gomes.

The lively Pennant had chances to get his name on the scoresheet in the closing stages although Gomes denied him twice from an angle from Fowler's neat through-ball.

Liverpool were happy to retain possession in injury-time as they coasted home to set up a semi-final clash with Chelsea and move to within two games of the Athens final.

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