Gerrard always the lead role in team of cameos
By Len Capeling - Daily Post
Rafael Benitez pronounced himself pleased with the
3-0 scoreline, but that was purely for public
consumption. His private verdict would surely have been
along the lines of 'Not bad, but we can do better. A lot
woeful West Brom was never going to be the litmus test
of a season slow to catch fire for the Reds, but the
next two challenges, home to Monaco and away to
Manchester United, will deliver a more telling
interpretation of the Benitez story so far.
Saturday was simply a taster, a chance for some further
experimentation, with Luis Garcia stepping ahead of the
already out-of-favour Milan Baros as support player for
Principally a wide player who likes to drift inside in
search of goals, Garcia offered as much evidence for the
defence as for the prosecution.
Gerrard celebrates a new goal. So
long he's Reds' leading goalscorer.
Alert enough to set up Steven Gerrard for the opener, he
then headed his skipper's assist horribly off-target
when perfectly placed, followed that up by criminally
ignoring Gerrard in order to shoot wide, before scoring
himself at the second attempt to wrap up proceedings.
On that basis you might just give the ex-Barcelona man a
merit mark, but unless he wants to go the way of Baros -
who also plays in blinkers - he needs to be more aware
of the possibilities around him - especially with
Gerrard now given licence to plunder opposition penalty
This new approach has already turned Gerrard into
Liverpool's leading scorer for the campaign - with four
goals - and he may need to add a lot more if others
don't begin to take more responsibility.
Which brings me to Cisse, who again failed to convince
anyone other than his agent that £14million was a sound
Maybe it's just that Benitez hasn't yet found a way to
harness the pace and power of the tall striker.
Let's hope, because what Liverpool don't need at a time
of traumatic transition is another Emile Heskey - big
but terminally blunt.
One fierce shot palmed into the Kop by Albion keeper
Russell Hoult was Cisse's sole significant contribution
in the dying moments of the first half, and he matched
that, late in the second, with a looping effort over
Hoult and the crossbar.
Other than that, well, some will claim he worked hard in
the cause, others will loudly beg to differ.
Elsewhere, Gerrard, as ever, kept things ticking over
while the manager attempted to educate his back four in
the art of holding a high line and compressing the
Benitez loves pressure being exerted all over the pitch
and defenders who fearfully sit back is another
Houllierism that drives him wild.
Easier to do this against cannon-fodder like West Brom,
you might say, but Benitez is clearly of the mind that
certain players can do more for themselves and the team.
Try to puzzle out Harry Kewell, who is still not the
leading man he ought to be particularly now in the
absence of whatever his name was.
Liverpool's problem seems to be that there are too many
cameo appearances and not enough solid starring roles.
Which is why almost no-one is yet convinced that
Liverpool will stay the course.
Every time Gerrard claims a man of the match award - and
he did again here - it represents a lack of contenders
among his team-mates.
Garcia gave the fans another name to consider, even
allowing for the frustration of too many wrong options
taken, while Xabi Alonso came off the bench to
demonstrate some silky skills and a Gerrard-like sublety
of pass, both short and long.
But still the mix remained lumpy, despite a flavoursome
strike from Steve Finnan, and the next seven days
threaten to be very much more exacting for Benitez and
his iconic captain.
Difficulties? Well, if so, they're the kind Gary Megson
would love to own. His side are going down and, rumour
has it, Megson's not going with them.
He could be gone as early as this morning, becoming the
third Premiership casualty of an infant season.
The watching Robsons - previous fallers Sir Bobby and
'Wor Bryan' - are said to be trying on Baggies training
strips before being sold to the gullible as the latest
More hard-headed fans will instead think of nightmares.
Rafa: Best Reds display yet
By Paul Higham - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez said Liverpool's 3-0 win over West Brom
was probably their best display of the season.
The Reds controlled the match against The Baggies, and
goals from Steven Gerrard, Steve Finnan and Luis Garcia
confirmed the points would stay at Anfield.
Benitez says that his side is slowly coming together but
Saturday's win was their best display of the campaign to
New singing Luis Garcia has shown some promise while
Gerrard has been told to get more goals - and three
already in the league suggest Benitez's message is
"Perhaps it was our best display of the season because
we scored three goals, had a lot of chances and played
with a lot more movement," said Benitez.
"I said that Luis Garcia would be a good player for us
because he is different. He understands what I want to
do and he can score goals and I think he will be a good
player for us.
"Gerrard is going to be an important player for us. When
he starts playing the team starts playing with more
confidence, and his goal got the crowd going which is
also important for the players.
"We still need more time, I'm not sure how much longer
because it's impossible to know, but we have seen today
a better team with more balance and better movement, but
it is still a small step on the way."
Steve Finnan was delighted to score his first
Liverpool goal, but said the three points were far more
"It's been a while but it was nice to score," said
Finnan. "We won the match as well which was the main
thing after our last result.
"We needed that second goal and we went in at half time
comfortable at 2-0 up.
"Overall it was a good performance and a good result as
they were a good passing team and created a few
Gerrard's opener was his third in four Premiership
games and his fifth of the season overall, and he
revealed that talks with the new manager have helped his
"I've got off to a good start," said Gerrard. "The
manager spoke to me at the start of the season and said
he wanted goals from midfield.
"I've sat down a few times with him since the start of
the season and I'm trying to get forward at the right
time and not get caught out.
"It was a comfortable win. It was nice to score early
and get a second before half time and the game was
virtually dead by then."
roll over Baggies
By Paul Higham - Sky Sports
Liverpool produced a fine display to dispose of West
Brom in a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Rafa Benitez's Reds created a lot more chances, and
played with a lot more confidence, than in their recent
defeat to Graz and Bolton.
Steve Gerrard was back to his driving best and he gave
them the lead at Anfield following a neat passing move
after 18 minutes.
Steve Finnan grabbed his first league goal for Liverpool
with another good strike and Luis Garcia sealed the
points on the hour when he finally converted one of the
many chances he had on the day.
Liverpool took no time at all to settle and were
straight into their stride from the kick-off as they
forced West Brom to defend early on.
Luis Garcia had a great chance to test Russell Hoult
when he was set up by Harry Kewell on the left of the
box but he tried a first time cross which failed to find
The hosts duly took the lead after 18 minutes and again
it was their skipper Gerrard who provided the spark.
The Reds played some neat football between Finnan,
Gerrard and Garcia, with the captain ending up storming
inside the box before striking a low left-footed shot
that found the bottom corner of Hoult's net.
Liverpool did not sit back after scoring and could have
doubled their lead when Neil Clement headed a corner
towards his own goal, but for Jonathan Greening to head
the ball off the line.
From the resulting corner, Sami Hyypia got his head to
the ball but his powerful nod went straight at Hoult.
Rafa Benitez's men should have doubled their advantage
through Luis Garcia, who found himself unmarked from a
Gerrard cross from the left, but he skewed his header
The second did come three minutes before the break when
John Arne Riise's glorious raking ball found Finnan on
the right, and he controlled the ball well under
pressure from Clement.
The Irishmen then cut inside the right hand edge of the
box before smashing a low shot inside Hoult's near post
for a superb second goal for Liverpool.
Jezry Dudek first real test came in stoppage time at the
end of the half when Clement unleashed a fearsome strike
from all of 40 yards that the Polish keeper had to palm
Benitez obviously told his side to keep on pressing in
the second half as they showed no signs of sitting on
their lead, despite spirited resistance from West Brom.
Robert Earnshaw got his first taste of the Premiership
when he replaced the ineffective Geoff Horsfield, but
the Welshman struggled to get a telling touch.
Luis Garcia wasted a glorious chance to wrap up the
points when he failed to set up Gerrard, who was
screaming for the ball, and the Spaniard had an icy
glare from his captain after blazing his shot widely
Riccardo Scimeca went close from a corner but his header
was well saved by Dudek, as The Baggies refused to lay
However, the game was put to bed on the hour mark as
Luis Garcia finally grabbed a goal after missing a
number of chances.
Gerrard sent the former Barcelona man away down the left
and, with no-one in the box, he rattled a fierce
left-foot shot straight at Hoult.
The West Brom keeper could not hold the stinging effort
and Garcia fired in the rebound right-footed under
Hoult's body to grab his first goal for Liverpool.
Djibril Cisse had a late chance to grab his first
Anfield goal snuffed out by Hoult but Liverpool were
cruising in the end and were well worth their 3-0 win.