rounds on Liverpool flops
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has launched a
stinging public attack on his players in the aftermath
of the disappointing defeat at Birmingham.
Benitez's side lost the chance to make ground on Everton
in the fight for a Champions League place in a 2-0
And he told the Liverpool Echo: "I have come here to
work hard and I expect everyone else to do the same.
"We must accept the Birmingham game was bad and not the
kind of performance we want in future."
Benitez added: "I don't want to spend time here without
trophies. It's not enough for me to see my side play
well in one or two games. I want consistency and that
means everyone working harder.
"I told the players this week that when I decided to
join this club I took it on as a challenge. I have not
come to Liverpool to earn money.
"We all have to accept responsibility and do everything
we possibly can to make a strong team, not only in the
future but from now."
Benitez added: "After the Birmingham game I felt very
disappointed and it was the same the day after. I
watched the video of the match and analysed what
"On Monday we spoke to the players and told them we must
change our mentality. You can't have a team which always
plays good sometimes and bad others.
"What makes it worse is we went into the Birmingham game
knowing Everton had lost earlier, so we had a chance to
close the gap."
Benitez also insists players cannot use midweek
internationals as an excuse for lack-lustre
He said: "When the players go to their national teams, I
think a lot of them lose their concentration.
"We have seen this before with the breaks. When they
come back, we lose a game and I think it's a dangerous
time for us.
"It shouldn't be like this. If you want to win trophies
and play for a big club, you have to play important
games all the time. Whether it's for the national team
or Champions League, you have to reach a level and stay
"We have accepted it was bad last weekend and now we
must try to be positive about the future.
"There are eleven games left, five of which are at home
against teams around us and fighting for fourth and
all angry at setback
By Ian Doyle - Daily Post Staff
Jerzy Dudek has revealed the "anger" within the
Liverpool squad after they wasted an opportunity to
close in on fourth-placed Everton at the weekend.
Rafael Benitez's side slipped to a dismal 2-0 defeat at
Birmingham City to remain five points behind their
neighbours in the race for Champions League
But goalkeeper Dudek insists the Anfield side remain
confident and retain the desire to secure a top-four
"It was a very disappointing result, especially
considering Everton lost," he said. "We knew that it
would be tough for Everton and that if we had won we
would have been closer to fourth place, which is where
we want to be.
"It is frustrating that we've got to wait a while for
the next game but in one way it is good because we have
time to think about what went right and what went wrong.
"There is a very big anger in the team about the way we
played. We will be on our toes for the next game.
"But we are still confident we can finish fourth. We
have to keep going. We still have Everton at home and we
have a lot of games still to play. Everton have some
tough games to come but we have to look at ourselves
first and how we can improve before we start looking at
how the other teams are doing."
Liverpool were off the pace throughout at St Andrews and
slumped to their seventh away defeat of the season after
a Walter Pandiani penalty and a Julian Gray volley in
the first half proved too large an obstacle to overcome.
And Dudek continued: "I don't think the performance was
as bad as Southampton. We knew that they would play long
balls and that we would have to be ready for the second
ball all the time.
"But we didn't deal with that right.
"It was very difficult to come back. At half-time we had
the belief we could fight back because we have done that
before this season, coming back from 2-0 down, and we
thought we could do it again.
"But there was no chance. Birmingham played very well
and were very compact and were good in defence and it
was difficult to create any decent chances."
Dudek was aggrieved at the decision by referee Howard
Webb to award the 37th-minute penalty that set
Birmingham on their way to victory after Sami Hyypia and
Emile Heskey tangled following a long ball into the
"I don't know if it was a penalty," said the Polish
"We were not sure and we thought it might have been
offside as well. It was controversial.
"I thought that both Sami and Emile fell over
themselves. They both didn't really have a chance to
connect with the ball as it was bouncing away from
Heskey was a constant menace to Liverpool against his
old club and was a clear man of the match for Steve
"Emile played very well and he gave our back four a lot
of problems," added Dudek.. "We know how he likes to
play and he is one of the best strikers in the air in
the country, so we knew it would be difficult to battle
for long balls in the air with him.
"With Emile playing against his old club, he was giving
110% to show how well he can play."
Liverpool have a 10-day break before their next game
against Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of their
Champions League second round tie at Anfield.
And Dudek said: "We have to keep our heads up because we
have an important game coming up against Leverkusen and
we have to make sure we are ready for that."
Anonymous Gerrard hurts Anfield morale
By Tony Cascarino - The Times
Prevailing wisdom suggests that no player is bigger
than the club. Yet Michael Owen was at Liverpool. And to
judge from his past few performances, which have been
poor, Steven Gerrard will continue to be until his
inevitable departure from Anfield in the summer.
Both stars of England, both undermining and enveloping
the Liverpool team and manager with their superstar
Gérard Houllier’s response to Owen was largely to ignore
the question and try to play him with a series of
partners up front — none worked for too long and most
were sold on. And while Rafael Benítez was fortunate not
to have to deal with that issue, since Owen left soon
after the Spaniard’s arrival, he faces a similar dilemma
to that of the previous manager. Gerrard, the captain of
the most successful club in the history of England, is
having a negative impact on the team. The midfield
player knows he is leaving; his team-mates know it;
Benítez knows it, and the supporters know it. And it is
destabilising the club.
By the look of things, Benítez is scared to say anything
to Gerrard for fear that any confrontation will spiral
into a row at a time when he needs his midfield player
to inspire the team in the Carling Cup final and to win
a place in the Champions League. Benítez wouldn’t want
anything to worsen Gerrard’s form. The Liverpool players
will be aware of Benítez’s nervousness. If Benítez were
more brave, he would tell Gerrard that he understands
that he wants to leave, that he can do so at the end of
the season, but until then, he needs him to show the
form he was doing at the start of the season.
The midfield player was anonymous against Birmingham
City on Saturday — as he was away to Southampton
recently — when he trotted around as if it was a
practice match, trying some cute threaded passes, but he
had no influence. He shrugged his shoulders when passes
went astray, attempted some tackles and did little else.
He played as if he was counting down the games to his
departure and as if his team-mates were not good enough
for him — which may be a fair point. Certainly, because
of their form, they are hardly in a position to
criticise Gerrard for not pulling his weight. But also
his Liverpool team-mates will understand that he wants
to better himself and that, in his position, they would
want to do the same.
I remember a similar scenario at Aston Villa, when the
players endured a season of David Platt dreaming of his
move to Italy while we struggled in the second part of
the season. He was already learning the language. The
players whispered it in cliques, but never confronted
him. He was a nuisance, at times, for Jozef Venglos, the
newly appointed Czech manager. Platt stormed out of
training on a couple of occasions, not wanting to do
certain exercises. He scored goals without playing well
for the team.
He became a hindrance and had a negative effect. The
only player who could conceivably have criticised him
was Paul McGrath, but no matter the scoreline, the big
defender said little. At that stage of my career, had I
contemplated saying anything, Platt would have pointed
out that I was the club’s record signing, but where were
I compare that to playing with Andy Townsend and Fabien
Barthez, who continued to be outstanding when being
approached for a move from Chelsea to Aston Villa and
from Marseilles to AS Monaco respectively. And also Roy
Keane, who should be a model for Gerrard. Keane was
exceptional during his last year at Nottingham Forest
while he was being chased by glamorous clubs such as
Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United. He
would never be the type of player to give less than 100
per cent. Keane was so intimidating that when I drove to
training with Ireland, I would be apprehensive about
what his mood would be. But he would always inspire
players, whether against AC Milan or York City.
Gerrard seems to have lost that attitude from the start
of the season. Sure he will perform against Chelsea in
the Carling Cup final and against Bayer Leverkusen in
the European Cup, but what about upcoming league matches
against Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and
BETTER OFF WITHOUT THEM
WAYNE ROONEY: Everton were relegation candidates
with him last season and are Champions League-bound
NICOLAS ANELKA: Real Madrid got a sulky Frenchman
and a £23 million hole in their bank account while
Arsenal got Thierry Henry, for less than half the
transfer fee, and two titles to boot.
KEVIN KEEGAN: The Kop mourned his departure from
Liverpool to SV Hamburg until they saw the artistry of
Kenny Dalglish and then they celebrated for 14 years.
Rafa shocked by
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez admitted he was shocked by Liverpool's
display in the 2-0 defeat to Birmingham.
The Reds missed the chance to close the gap on Everton
in fourth place after a disappointing showing.
Benitez agreed that his side performed well below par
and has vowed to analyze the game to put things right.
"It was disappointing and we know we did not play a good
game," bemoaned Benitez.
"I don't know why we played like that but we never got
to the second balls and had no high tempo.
"Sure we don't play well and we know that we didn't play
well and we will analyze why and try and change the
situation for the next game.
"We have many important games coming up and that is
reason why we need to analyze things."
Benitez also had no complaints about the penalty
Birmingham were awarded after former Liverpool star
Emile Heskey went down in the box under a challenge from
"I am not sure it was a penalty, but you cannot change
the result after the game," added Benitez.
When asked if his side's performance had shocked him the
Spaniard replied: "Yes."
best ever performance
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce hailed his side's
performance as the best in their two and a half years of
Premiership football as they triumphed 2-0 over
lacklustre Liverpool at St Andrews.
First-half goals from Walter Pandiani and Julian Gray
dealt a blow to the Reds' hopes of clawing their way
back into the race for Champions League football.
An inspired display by striker Emile Heskey helped Blues
register only their second win in the last seven League
Bruce said: "In the two and a half years that we have
been in the Premiership we have had some great days to
look back on.
"But, considering the opposition and the quality they
have, that is as good as we have played in the
Premiership for an entire 90 minutes.
"A team as good as Liverpool could not manage a shot on
our goal until the last minute and we dominated in terms
"I just couldn't pick out a man of the match today. All
of them have played to their maximum and when that
happens you are delighted."
Bruce believes Heskey has been unlucky not to have
earned an England recall given his performances over the
past three months.
He said: "I don't pick the England team, but it does
surprise me that he is not involved because he is
something different to what we already have in there.
"Defoe, Rooney and Owen are all great players but they
are all similar. Emile is one that gives you a different
"I think he may well have been back in for the Holland
game last week had he not been injured. I don't think
he's got anything to prove but he's been everybody's
"If you ask people like Michael Owen who have played
with him, they'll say he's a great person to work
alongside. Pandiani has come off the pitch and said the
suffer the Blues
By Peter O Rourke - Sky Sports
Liverpool missed the chance to close the gap on
Everton after suffering a 2-0 defeat at Birmingham.
First half goals from Walter Pandiani (penalty) and
Julian Gray were enough to give Steve Bruce's men a
deserved win and leave Liverpool trailing Everton by
five points in the race for a UEFA Champions League
Pandiani had the first opportunity of the game on ten
minutes when, at full stretch, he volleyed Jermaine
Pennant's cross wide of the target.
Liverpool were struggling to create any clear
goalscoring opportunities, but Jamie Clapham got in a
vital tackle on 15 minutes to deny Fernando Morientes
getting on the end of Steven Gerrard's cross.
The home side suffered a blow two minutes later when
Mario Melchiot failed to shake off an earlier knock and
was forced to be replaced by Olivier Tebily
Morientes fashioned a chance for himself out of nothing
on the half hour when he somehow worked his way past two
challenges and fired in a shot straight at Maik Taylor.
Pennant wasted a great opening on 33 minutes when he
raced clear on goal, but Jerzy Dudek stood up big to
keep out his shot with his arm.
Birmingham were handed the chance to break the deadlock
on 38 minutes when referee Howard Webb awarded them a
penalty after adjudging that Sami Hyypia had wrestled
former team-mate Emile Heskey to the ground inside the
Pandiani made no mistake from the spot rifling his shot
past Dudek to give Birmingham a deserved lead.
Riise fluffed a great chance to draw Liverpool level
minutes later when he ghosted into the box unmarked to
meet Steve Finnan's cross, but he got his attempted
header all wrong much to the delight of the home fans.
Birmingham doubled their lead right on the stroke of
half time with Gray netting his first goal for the club.
Djimi Traore made a mess of a clearance giving the ball
to Pennant and the on-loan winger wasted no time in
sending a dangerous cross to the far post for Gray to
volley high into the net.
Liverpool introduced Vladimir Smicer at the start of the
second half in place of the ineffective Igor Biscan, but
the visitors continued to struggle to make any headway.
Hyypia got in vital header to prevent Gray's inviting
cross reaching Heskey as Birmingham continued to call
the tune in the second half.
The subdued Milan Baros wasted a chance for Liverpool on
70 minutes when he dragged a shot from the edge of the
box well wide.
Liverpool tried to force their way back into the
contest, but Taylor was never troubled in the Birmingham
Liverpool's miserable day was summed up in the dying
minutes when Smicer spooned a volley well over the
crossbar after being teed up by Traore.
Jamie Carragher was denied a goal back for Liverpool in
the last seconds when Damien Johnson kicked his header
off the line from Gerrard's corner.