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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
"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
"But the key is really the quality of the players they have.
Everyone can say things, but the difference will be on the
"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
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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“We play the second leg at Anfield and if we can do
something at Stamford Bridge them maybe we can have and
“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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"They have enough players and enough quality for playing a
lot of competitions."
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
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
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
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
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.