Reds celebrating the first silverware of the season.
Rock-solid Malian may prove
to be Rafa's superman
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Echo
His legs stretch across the turf like a snooker cue rest
lying on the green baize. And they have a similar effect as
that piece of apparatus - reaching things that mere mortals
find physically impossible.
It's the incredible extending limbs of Momo Sissoko that
give him that bit extra.
And they could provide the added leg-up Liverpool need to
catch, and indeed overtake, Chelsea for real.
Yesterday proved once again that they can do it over one
game. But it's the 38 coming up that they need to be worried
Momo Sissoko - Man of The Match.
You need a squad to cope with such demands and, to that end,
players who will take responsibility when their mates aren't
around to do it for them.
Here's where Sissoko steps in. Analysing the individual
pieces of magic dust that he sprinkled throughout the game
gives encouragement enough.
Michael Ballack was forced into an early booking as Sissoko
somehow squeezed the ball down the line just when the German
thought he had him cornered.
When the roles were reversed and Ballack finished up on his
backside, it was courtesy of a perfectly-timed piece of good
old-fashioned ball winning from his midfield opponent.
Arjen Robben must have felt he was under some sort of
octopus attack as Sissoko wrapped his leg around the
Dutchman to halt one of his trademark speed surges.
And the hit list was then complete when Andriy Shevchenko
suddenly appeared invisible as the big man strode through
him and casually waltzed off with possession.
But the bigger picture paints an even more attractive
landscape for Liverpool.
Sissoko's snuffing-out of opponents with such efficiency
will surely reap more rewards when Steven Gerrard and Xabi
Alonso are available to exploit it.
As it was, neither of them were alongside him for the
majority of yesterday - and Jose Mourinho thought his side
was operating at 50 per cent!
But half fit or not, a team that featured Lampard, Essien
and briefly, Ballack, never dominated in a way that they
might have expected when they saw that Gerrard and Alonso's
names weren't in the top 11 on the team sheet.
It was largely thanks to Sissoko and his mere presence alone
in the hour that he was without his chief allies that laid
the foundations for more silverware-snatching at the expense
of the champions.
The overall importance of the youngster to Liverpool's bid
to return to the summit of English football has been buried
in many aspects of summer holiday hype.
Being from Mali, there was no World Cup in which to enhance
his reputation, then fervent transfer speculation has taken
further attention away.
It's natural that most pre-season patter focuses on the new
men and how, or if, they will adapt to Rafael Benitez's
And given the risks Benitez has taken in this area it's
little wonder that most anticipation is surrounding the
But it's how Sissoko fits in that might be more relevant.
For a start, he has secured the man of the match award in
both yesterday's Community Shield showdown and the first of
the week's 2-1 victories in Wednesday's Champions League win
over Maccabi Haifa.
Secondly, having him in such form is like bringing in a new
signing anyway because of the nightmare he suffered in the
last campaign when an eye injury, at one stage, threatened
And thirdly, unlike Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Pennant, he
has nothing to prove at Anfield because his first season was
as smooth a settling-in period as you could wish for.
Yesterday also highlighted something that might have
previously been unthinkable.
It involved Benitez, whether it was intentional or not,
almost matching Mourinho's playing-down of his team's
chances by leaving out the two chief playmakers that many
thought they couldn't do without.
By sending Sissoko out into no man's land stripped of their
support, he had to prove the team could cope without them.
It was a day when the boy from Africa had no choice but to
go out and become a man.
Keep this up and he will soon become Liverpool's main man.
to keep hold of Reds shirt
Cardiff goal hero John Arne Riise has vowed to fight off
anyone who wants to take his Liverpool shirt.
The Norwegian international, who struck another thunderous
goal - his 27th for the club from left back - in the 2-1
Community Shield success over champions Chelsea, is
constantly aware that his place is under threat.
Now Djimi Traore has been sold there is Brazilian left-sided
defender Fabio Aurelio to worry about.
Aurelio insists he is happier at left-back than left
midfield, where the competition with Mark Gonzalez and Harry
Kewell gives boss Rafael Benitez better attacking options.
And then Riise has to contend with an even more surprising
sub-plot that Chelsea are being linked with him if they fail
to land Ashley Cole.
That may be just wild speculation, certainly at £15million,
with Riise making it plain he is only bothered about
retaining his left-back role at Anfield.
Riise, 26, said: "I like to have competition for my place,
it keeps me on my toes, and it seems each season there are
people bought to challenge me. But I still seem to be
"I need to keep working hard to hold onto the shirt and that
is what I have done each season. I worked hard again this
pre-season and I have played in both the first two games.
"I aim to keep working to hold onto my place, I have no
intention of letting it go."
Riise's blockbuster in the Millennium Stadium was pretty
special even by his standards, with long range thunderbolts
He scored a power drive a couple of seasons back in the
League Cup final against Chelsea, but finished on the losing
side that day. It made Sunday's effort even sweeter.
He said: "It was another recent victory for us over Chelsea
and I scored against them at Cardiff again but this time we
won, not like in the Coca Cola Cup.
"The goal came from their corner, I got the ball, kept
running and didn't believe how much space I had so I just
kept going. By the time I got within sight of the goal all I
had was John Terry in front of me and he kept backing off.
"I just decided to have a go. To be honest I felt their
'keeper should have saved it, but it was a great feeling to
see it go in.
"Chelsea have a great record of clean sheets and they defend
well so I was surprised to be given so much space. It was
worth a crack."
Liverpool won the Shield for the 14th time despite Benitez
fielding a weakened side for the first hour that included
rookie defender Daniel Agger and without Steven Gerrard
until the final stages.
Riise said: "People may have been surprised by the team
selection but we wanted to give some other players their
match fitness. It was high tempo and a great game to watch.
"Chelsea are the favourites for the title again so it is
nice to play them early and beat them. People may call it a
friendly but it was an important game to get our confidence
accepts Cardiff defeat
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho accepts his side were second
best in falling to a Community Shield defeat to Liverpool
at The Millennium Stadium.
A header from Peter Crouch ten minutes from time was enough
to win Liverpool the first silverware of the season after
Andrei Shevchenko had earlier cancelled out John Arne
Liverpool were the better side for long spells in Cardiff
and Mourinho feels that a pre-season interrupted by players
reporting back late following their World Cup exertions
proved to be a major factor.
The Portuguese tactician is well aware that his side need
fine-tuning in terms of fitness and was magnanimous in
defeat in conceding Liverpool deserved their victory.
"If I look at the game as a pre-season game, I think it was
fantastic for us because we played against a team in much
better condition than us," Mourinho told Sky Sports.
"Because of that it was very very good. If I look at the
game as a minor trophy of course you don't like to lose but
if you don't think about the difference of condition of both
teams they deserved to win because they were better than us.
"They are a very difficult team to beat. When you play them
you can win, lose or draw.
''They defend well and they are well-organised.
"This season they have more solutions. They can play with
Crouch or play a different way with [Craig] Bellamy. Or play
"But a competition of 10 months is different to a game of A
against B. If I play them again tomorrow, it will be
difficult but over 10 months I believe we can do it."
A disappointing day for the champions was compounded by an
injury sustained by new boy Michael Ballack, who was making
his competitive bow in Chelsea colours.
The German schemer pulled up sharply early in the first
period and had to be replaced, with his new taskmaster
admitting that he feared the player could be ruled out of
their Premiership opener.
''Ballack is injured, that is obvious. I'm not sure if he
will miss the start of the season," he added.
"I hope it is nothing big because we have Joe Cole, Claude
Makelele and Petr Cech injured - we have to try to start the
season as best we can.
"Every team will try to improve to catch us but I think we
will be the best team."
While Ballack was denied the opportunity to stamp his class
on proceedings, fellow new signing Shevchenko was excellent
all afternoon and his goal was testimony to an impressive
"The goal was great,'' concluded Mourinho.
''It was one of the rare moments of possession where we took
the ball with penetration and movement and it was class how
he took his goal.
"He can't get the ball from Cudicini's hands and score a
goal at the other end.
"He needs the team to have the sharpness and condition and
technical structure to play in the last third.
"In the last third he is fantastic. He had two situations.
He almost scored a goal with a finish from a corner and the
other was a wonderful goal.
"He needs the team behind him to be what he is - an amazing
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes his side's 2-1 win
over Chelsea in the Community Shield will give them
confidence for the new season.
The Reds picked up the first silverware of the season with a
deserved success at The Millennium Stadium.
Goals from John Arne Riise and Peter Crouch were enough to
give Liverpool the spoils with Andrei Shevchenko netting his
first goal for Chelsea.
Benitez was happy with his side's showing at Cardiff and
believes they can build on the success.
"No (it is not a psychological blow) I think it gives us
confidence in ourselves, " said Benitez.
"It is difficult to play against one of the best teams in
the world and we have done a good job today and for the rest
of the season we will have more confidence.
"The team worked really hard against a very good team with
lots of good players and in the last minutes we were
working, running and trying to defend and I am really
pleased with the team. "
Benitez, who left out a number of his top stars from the
starting line-up, hinted that he could still be in the
market for more new signings before the close of the
"This shows we have a very good squad," added Benitez.
"We tried to use players that are fitter than the others and
then bring on some of the bigger names. But I think in both
halves we played well.
"We can try to improve if it is possible but I am happy with
the squad, although you can improve a little bit."
Blues can boost us
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch is hoping his goal in the
2-1 FA Community Shield win over Chelsea kick-starts a
winning season for the Reds.
Crouch scored the second goal to clinch victory at Cardiff's
Millennium Stadium and told Sky Sports: "The manager wants
his players to improve and I want to improve as a player.
"I want to win things and this is a good start to the
season. We hope it is going to be a good season."
The England frontman added: "People say it's not important
[to win the Community Shield] but you see the fans and the
players and see it is important."
New £6.5million signing Craig Bellamy, who came on in the
second half, said: "The gaffer had a meeting and said he
would be looking to rest people. They are all good players.
Good players come off and players of high quality come on."
John Arne Riise, who scored Liverpool's first goal,
explained why he decided to try a shot after marauding
through the Chelsea ranks.
"I looked around and just decided to have a go. They backed
off and I thought just go. I felt the goalkeeper would save
"I went so far and looked around and didn't see anyone so it
was down to me."
He added; "Everyone worked hard today. We beat the
Premiership champions and now we have to move on."
season's first silverware
Liverpool have won the FA Community Shield for the 15th
time in their history after Peter Crouch's goal gave them a
2-1 victory over Chelsea.
It may be a meaningless friendly but Sunday's clash in
Cardiff gave the new season exactly what it needed - proof
that Chelsea are beatable.
Jose Mourinho's team cruised to the title last season and
then bought two of the world's best players with Roman
The rest of the league could be forgiven for thinking the
new campaign will be a race for second place.
Crouch changed all that with a back-post header 10 minutes
from time at the Millennium Stadium.
Craig Bellamy supplied the cross from the left and Crouch
was unmarked as he bagged the winner.
Mourinho's blue machine was stopped by the England striker,
who was briefly famous for his robotic dancing.
John Arne Riise has fired the Reds in front in the ninth
minute but Andriy Shevchenko levelled, just before
Mourinho will shrug it off, dismiss the game as a warm-up
for the real thing, which starts next weekend.
He will undoubtedly grumble again about the short
pre-season, which has given him very little time to work
with his players.
And he may throw in another moan about the international
fixtures this week, which will disrupt his preparations.
Liverpool, in contrast, will put the Shield into the Anfield
trophy cabinet and consider it a huge psychological blow to
beat the champions on the eve of the new season.
There is, after all, serious needle between these two teams.
This was their eleventh meeting in little over two years and
the games have been packed with controversy.
The animosity was evident when Frank Lampard's temper
snapped in the first half and he booted Boudewijn Zenden
Lampard was lucky to escape with a booking from Martin
Atkinson because, although Zenden had the ball, the Chelsea
midfielder did not seem to be aiming for it.
Michael Ballack was also booked when he wiped out Mohamed
Sissoko with an awful late tackle on the touchline.
Mourinho had chosen to start with what looked like his
strongest available team, in the absence of Petr Cech, Joe
Cole, Claude Makelele and William Gallas.
Ballack, however, hobbled off midway through the half,
holding an ice-pack to his hip. Salomon Kalou came on.
Liverpool's competitive season is already under way. They
beat Maccabi Haifa last week in a Champions League qualifier
and Benitez rested some of his key players.
Steven Gerrard started on the bench, along with Xabi Alonso
and new striker Craig Bellamy.
Riise fired Liverpool ahead in the ninth minute. He picked
up a clearance from a Chelsea corner and sprinted from box
to box without meeting a challenge.
John Terry backed off and Riise unleashed a left-footer
which dipped suddenly and beat Carlo Cudicini.
The Italian, in for the injured Cech, should have saved it
and skipper Terry glared at his goalkeeper.
Riise sprinted away in delight. The goal was a reminder of
his screamer against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final in
2005, which also put the Reds one-up.
Cudicini made up for his mistake in the 42nd minute when his
acrobatics stopped his team going two goals behind.
Benitez must have wondered how the ball stayed out of the
net when Mark Gonzalez slid a low cross in from the left but
Luis Garcia and Crouch got in each other's way.
Garcia had the final touch but his gentle looping effort
gave Cudicini the chance to recover and tip it over the bar.
Within a minute, the scores were level as Lampard's pass
found Shevchenko breaking clear of the Liverpool back-four.
The Ukrainian showed the sort of finishing prowess you can
buy for £30million.
He took the pass on his chest and coolly side-footed the
ball past Jose Reina with his second touch. Up in the
stands, Roman Abramovich punched the air in delight. His
latest big-money investment certainly knows where the net
Reina made two sharp saves inside a minute, in the second
The Spaniard turned one over from Drogba and then sprang to
his left to beat away a low header from Shevchenko.
After Liverpool's strong opening, Chelsea had started to
dominate and Benitez responded by sending on Alonso and
Bellamy followed shortly after as the substitutes flooded on
and disrupted the game's rhythm.
Alonso had been on less than a minute when he whacked
Michael Essien on the ankle and was booked.
Liverpool remember Essien's nasty two-footed tackle on Didi
Hamann in last season's Champions League.
Incidents like the Essien challenge on Hamann, together with
snide comments from both managers, have turned this fixture
the biggest grudge match in the Premiership.
These mutual feelings are unlikely to change if Liverpool
develop into Chelsea's nearest title rivals this season.
Crouch's late goal gave Benitez another win over Mourinho
and tightened his psychological hold.
He has beaten him in the Champions League, the FA Cup and
the Community Shield. Now for the Premiership.