Yossi Benayoun - the hat-trick man. (Photo: AFP)
Steven Gerrard midfield move
may unlock Premiership for Liverpool FC
Comment by Nick Peet - Liverpool Echo
While Javier Mascherano’s failure to board
a plane back from international duty with Argentina may have
forced Rafa Benitez’s hand in reverting Steven Gerrard back
to his more traditional central midfield role, it may also
have inadvertently unlocked the key to Liverpool’s title
The Reds dropped far too many points at home against teams
from the bottom half of the table last season and ultimately
this proved to be the club’s stumbling block in their fight
for the title.
Home draws against Stoke City, Fulham, West Ham and Hull
cost the Reds eight points as they failed to conquer sides
content with putting 11 men behind the ball on trips to
However, Saturday’s 4-0 demolition of Premier League new
boys Burnley was orchestrated by Gerrard who was given the
freedom of the park playing in the spaces in front of
Had Mascherano, who was unable to fly back as scheduled due
to a problem with his pelvis, been available it’s likely
Benitez would of stayed loyal to his preferred system of
playing the two South Americans in the centre of midfield
and Gerrard up top alongside Fernando Torres.
But while that system has proven profitable against clubs
fighting for Europe and also in the Champions League, when
teams come simply to defend the Reds require a little more
invention in the middle of the park.
Both Mascherano and Lucas are international midfielders
buoyed down with qualities in almost every area although
perhaps both are a little lacking in creativity.
Lucas has enjoyed a tremendous start to the new campaign and
is growing in confidence and stature with every performance.
But he’s a young man who’s own game appears to be going
through a positive transition right now.
Benitez is converting the Brazilian into an all round
midfielder and forcing him out of his comfort zone as one
traditionally best suited to simply guarding the back four.
It’s no coincidence Lucas’ best game of the season so far on
Saturday was when he was deployed specifically in the
It is vital for Benitez against sides with no more ambition
than to concede as few goals as possible at Anfield to
select a player capable of taking control of these game with
the ball at his feet and his head in the air.
Xabi Alonso performed that role for the Reds last season
and, when he’s eventually available, perhaps Alberto
Aquilani will perform in it going forward.
But Benitez already has arguably the best playmaker
midfielder in the world wearing the captain’s armband.
In deploying Gerrard back in the centre on Saturday he
handed the skipper an access all areas pass to simply pick
Gerrard was given the freedom to really express himself and
orchestrate the play from midfield.
After his return to form in helping England qualify for next
summer’s World Cup finals in midweek the Reds skipper was
clearly champing at the bit to really get Liverpool’s title
challenge up and running.
It’s been a relatively slow start to the new campaign for
both Gerrard and Torres and so firing four past The Clarets
will have given both a big lift, even if Torres failed to
add his fourth goal in successive games.
Gerrard was cruelly denied the goal his game deserved
against Burnley when he fired against the post in front of
But in what looks like a decent run of fixtures coming up,
where points could easily be collected, perhaps retaining
Gerrard in the middle of the park is the key to keeping the
goals tally ticking.
The in-form Yossi Benayoun clearly revelled in being given a
much more significant attacking role and has to be the first
name on the teamsheet right now.
While Dirk Kuyt’s tireless running style left doors open
across the Burnley back line which allowed full-backs Glen
Johnson and Emiliano Insua to penetrate on the overlap.
Even Albert Reira was spoilt for options cutting in from the
left flank as Gerrard spread the play one way then the next.
Debrecen will undoubtedly attempt to apply the same tactics
as Burnley when they arrive on Merseyside for Wednesday
night’s Champions League clash.
But Saturday’s free-flowing display proved once again with
Gerrard holding the keychain he has the ability to unlock
all the doors, both at home and in Europe.
at Carra critics
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has hit
back at critics who have targeted Jamie Carragher.
The Reds have made a stuttering start to the new Premier
League season, losing 2-1 to Tottenham on the opening
weekend and slipping up at home to Aston Villa.
They have conceded seven goals in five games but Benitez
believes it is unfair for the defenders to be blamed for
Carragher has been singled out by some pundits who have
suggested the 31-year-old no longer has the pace and fitness
to perform as consistently as he has in the past.
However, Benitez has no such doubts and maintains that
Carragher will continue to play a key role this term.
"When the team hasn't done well it is the defenders who take
the rap," Benitez said in the Daily Star Sunday.
"When you are losing, they will get criticised more than the
"Jamie is still a top player. He's training as always. He's
fit and quick and he will always be the same.
"He's a professional who has taken care of himself, so I
don't see him slowing down quickly."
Benitez accepts that Carragher has perhaps had to shoulder
too much of the responsibility in terms of making the team a
cohesive unit and he has called on other players to do more.
"It depends now on the team. If they help the defenders it
will be easy for the defenders to play well," he explained.
"It's more difficult for Carragher because he's been playing
with a lot of team-mates.
"He likes to talk but the other players around him are
important too. If he doesn't need to be talking much it's
easier for him to focus on his own game."
Benayoun: It was a perfect day
By Paul Hassall - LFC Official Website
Yossi Benayoun believes his match-winning
display in Saturday's 4-0 rout of Burnley was his best in a
The Israeli star netted a superb hat-trick to lead Rafael
Benitez's men to their third win of the new campaign and
later admitted it was the highlight of his Reds career so
"It was a good day for me and it was great to score three
goals," he said. "But the most important thing is the three
points. We played a lot of good football at times and won
the match - that is more important to me than scoring
With Javier Mascherano out injured, Benayoun was given a
more offensive role just off the striker, a position he
feels brought out the best in him.
"I started on the right but Rafa told me to move around and
try and get in between the lines," he said. "Every time I
did that I found space so I could turn and go forward.
"I was lucky because the rest of the team provided me with
good passes to score.
"It was the perfect day for me."
The win over Owen Coyle's side means Liverpool have now won
back-to-back Barclays Premier League matches for the first
time this season.
Benayoun acknowledges that the Reds were not at their best
during the opening month of the season but is hopeful they
are now back on the right track.
"We didn't start the season too well," he said. "We didn't
expect to lose two matches so early on, but I think the
international break came at the right time for us.
"We came back stronger and hopefully we will now go on a
winning run and boost our confidence even more."
Asked what he thought about those who have already written
off Liverpool's title chances, he added: "Maybe it's better
"There will be less pressure. We can build our confidence
slowly and when we win games like this, I think everyone can
see we have the quality to be up there in the race.
"We need to take it a game at a time and hopefully at the
end of the season we will be up there."
Rafa: Yossi is
an example to others
By Jimmy Rice at Anfield - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez labelled Yossi Benayoun an
example to the rest of his squad after the Israeli struck a
hat-trick to sink Burnley on Saturday.
Dirk Kuyt was the other scorer in a deserved 4-0 win - but
it was Benayoun who Benitez singled out as an example of how
those on the fringes can go on to play a crucial role.
The No.15 spent the first half of last season on the
peripheries but is now a central figure at Anfield.
Benitez said: "We know he's a player with quality. We have
seen how good he is coming from the bench and we were
talking about whether he could start or not.
"Today he was very, very good and his movement was fantastic
for the team.
"During the internationals I was talking with some players
about how they could change things, and it was just to work
"Yossi was away but he wanted to play, and when a player
wants to play it's very easy: you have to prove these things
in every training session and in a game if you get the
"Yossi is someone with experience and he knows the best way
to fight for your position is doing something well on the
Despite Benayoun walking away with the match ball, Benitez
believes another player was key to the 4-0 victory.
"Lucas supported and managed in the middle and kept everyone
else going forward," said the Spaniard.
"For me he was the key player today. We can talk about Yossi
but it was thanks to Lucas. One thing everyone told me when
I came here was that if you work hard the fans are with you.
"They could see again today that Lucas is a worker who has
quality. He can challenge in the air, tackle and pass the
"He worked so hard in different positions and allowed the
other players more freedom. For me he was a very important
player for us today."
On why Javier Mascherano was not in the squad, Benitez
revealed the midfielder was still in South America after
representing Argentina this week.
He explained: "Mascherano was not available. He still hasn't
arrived. He is coming back on Sunday. He had some problems,
and our doctor was talking to their doctor.
"Now I think he's okay but he's coming back later because he
had to do some tests over there.
"Don't be worried, it's not serious!"
hat-trick in Reds romp
Liverpool's season is firmly back on track
after Yossi Benayoun netted a hat-trick in Saturday's 4-0
Premier League home win over Burnley.
The top-flight new boys had started the season so well with
wins over Manchester United and Everton but have now
suffered successive defeats at Chelsea and now Liverpool -
conceding seven in the process.
They could not live with a vibrant Liverpool, who kept up an
impressive high tempo throughout and are slowly wiping away
the memory of those two early league defeats to Tottenham
and Aston Villa.
Benayoun scored his first from the edge of the box, and saw
his shot parried by the overworked Brian Jensen for Dirk
Kuyt to add the second before the break.
Steven Gerrard's pass set up Benayoun for his second, a
close-range tap-in, before the Israeli was sent clear by
substitute Andriy Voronin for his third and Liverpool's
Rafael Benitez made two changes from the side which won at
Bolton a fortnight ago, with Martin Skrtel returning to
central defence in place of Greece international Sotirios
With Javier Mascherano suffering a muscle injury while on
international duty with Argentina and not arriving back
until late Friday, Benayoun came into the side.
And what a tremendous impact he made, with a goal and a
display of running power that Burnley never came to terms
The Clarets, in their first league visit to Anfield for 33
years, retained the side that lost at Chelsea last time out,
with new loan signing David Nugent - a former Liverpool
trainee - on the bench.
The absence of Mascherano meant that Steven Gerrard played
in a much deeper role, alongside Lucas in the centre of
midfield, with Benayoun and Kuyt left to play just behind
Burnley started brightly with Martin Paterson firing wide
from the edge of the box, while Kuyt produced a low shot at
the other end that produced the first of many saves by
Liverpool slowly built up possession, moving the ball
quickly and Torres saw a curling 20-yard shot clear the far
But Burnley had Steven Fletcher and Paterson interchanging
positions up front and the visitors were quick and dangerous
on the break.
Liverpool's best early chance came when Emiliano Insua's
chip was headed a foot wide by Benayoun, the beginning of a
purple patch from the 29-year-old.
The lively Israel captain broke the deadlock with a gem of a
goal after 27 minutes.
He surged from midfield, turned away from Graham Alexander
and moved into the box to fire across Jensen and into the
Benayoun almost added another a minute later when he met
Albert Riera's cross with a low header that Jensen blocked,
the Burnley goalkeeper also keeping out Kuyt's follow-up.
Jensen had to keep out drives from Benayoun and Lucas before
Paterson forced his way past Gerrard to unleash a rising
drive that was held by Jose Reina.
But Liverpool went further ahead after 40 minutes with a
dynamic five-man break from defence.
Torres and Insua combined to set up Benayoun for a 20-yard
shot that Jensen blocked, but only as far as Kuyt who
clipped home from five yards.
The increasingly busy Jensen had to produce the save of the
half to keep out a Gerrard 20-yard drive before the break.
Liverpool kept up their assault after the interval with
Riera seeing two efforts blocked while Jensen saved from a
Stephen Jordan was booked for a block on Torres before
Burnley sent on Chris Eagles to replace Robbie Blake.
Torres was starting to stretch a tiring Burnley defence by
now and only Tyrone Mears' fine saving tackle stopped the
Spaniard in full flow.
But after 61 minutes Torres' pass played in a fiercely
determined Gerrard, who battered his way past two men in the
box to find Benayoun on the far post for a tap-in.
Liverpool sent on Swiss defender Philipp Degen for Glen
Johnson and Voronin for the hard-running Kuyt, the game well
won by now, and Burnley responded by giving Nugent his debut
Benayoun had an effort ruled out for offside and Gerrard
forced his way through again to hit a post, before David
Ngog took over from Torres.
There was still time for Benayoun to secure his hat-trick
after 81 minutes. Voronin's pass sent him clear in the box -
played onside by Jordan - and he side-footed the ball past
an exposed Jensen.
Eagles was booked for a foul on Benayoun, Jensen saved again
from Gerrard and Voronin missed when clear, with Burnley
just wanting it all to end.