Kuyt: Big improvement needed
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt spoke for an
embarrassed Liverpool squad by vowing that they will not
play as badly again in Europe.
Liverpool retreated from their Champions League mauling in
Belgium, as close to their Waterloo in European competition
as they would want to get.
And Kuyt promised: "We will not play as badly as that again,
we must improve and we will improve."
Around £12million of UEFA prize money is now riding on the
second leg of their third qualifying round against Standard
Liege on August 27.
Failure to reach the group stages then would even leave a
question mark over the future of boss Rafael Benitez, who
could probably hear American knives sharpening as he
witnessed Liverpool's inept 0-0 draw against Belgian
champions Standard Liege on Wednesday night.
Only Jose Reina's penalty save and his all-round defiance
prevented the three or four-goal victory Liege deserved.
Kuyt, along with out-of-touch Robbie Keane, was taken off in
the second half at the reverberating Maurice Dufrasne
stadium, home of a club who had not won their domestic title
in 25 years.
And the Belgians made it clear they wanted to grab with both
hands the chance of a first-ever Champions League adventure.
Kuyt said: "It was a bad performance. We tried to do our
best and it was not good enough.
"The forwards just did not have enough of the ball, and our
man of the match was Pepe Reina, that says everything about
"We will need a big improvement at Anfield. We know we did
not play our best game against Liege, we know that as a
A small, mainly silent Liverpool following high in the
rafters of Liege's intimidating stadium watched in horror as
the five-times European champions were battered from start
Kuyt said: "We struggled. We could not pass the ball to our
team-mates anywhere near enough.
"It was a difficult night and difficult to know what really
went wrong. But the good thing was a clean sheet and that
will give us the edge in a fortnight for the second leg.
"We know it was not our best game. But we want to step
things up and we know there is quality in the team, we have
shown that in pre-season and now we must show it in
competitive matches too.
"We have some big games coming up. One of those is on
Saturday at Sunderland. So we must not play like this again.
"Now we are looking forward to Saturday and the first league
game at Sunderland to show who we are and what we are.
"As for the Champions League, fortunately we are still in
the tie, but we definitely have to show better form than we
showed in Liege. We need to score, we have to play better
and we will."
Carragher: Tie is not over
Jamie Carragher admits Liverpool still
have a huge task on their hands as they bid to reach the
group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
The defender endured an uncomfortable night on Wednesday as
Liverpool survived to earn a 0-0 draw in the first leg of
their third qualifying round tie with Standard Liege.
Belgian champions Standard placed Liverpool under heavy
pressure at Stade Maurice Dufrasne and Carragher is
expecting another difficult evening at Anfield on August 27.
The second leg meeting on Merseyside is now a knock-out
clash in the battle to secure a lucrative spot in the group
stages of Europe's most prestigious club competition and
Carragher is well aware of what is at stake.
"It's definitely not over," Carragher told the Liverpool
"We know it'll be another tough game next time and it's very
important that we don't let them get an away goal when they
come to Anfield."
Liverpool have found it tricky in the qualifying rounds of
the Champions League in previous seasons and prior to
winning the competition in 2005, Rafa Benitez's side lost
their home leg to Austrian minnows Graz AK.
A repeat performance would see the Reds crash out, but
Carragher feels the fact that qualification has eventually
been secured in the past is a reason to be confident ahead
of welcoming Standard to England.
"We would certainly take it if we can get through now and go
on to do what we've done in the Champions League in the
past," added Carragher.
"Over the years we've always seemed to find these kind of
games difficult but gone on to do well and hopefully this
time it will be the same.
"It's never a bad result in Europe to come away and get a
clean sheet and now we've done that we have to go on and do
the business at Anfield."
Woeful stalemate showed
why Rafa must buy Barry
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
Apart from Pepe Reina saving Liverpool’s
blushes in Belgium last night, two things in particular
First was the importance of Steven Gerrard to Liverpool
Football Club. And second was just why Rafa Benitez has been
right all along to try and bring Gareth Barry to Anfield.
These are very early days and the Belgians and their fans
were well up for it, of course. But it was a really poor
performance with just two or three players along with Reina
doing themselves any justice.
It was only when Gerrard came on halfway through the second
half that you sensed Liverpool were going to survive. He
calmed things down, made everyone play with a bit more
assurance – something which had been woefully lacking until
then – and added a bit more threat going forward.
Personally I would have much preferred to have seen him on
from the start. I know he has had a couple of injuries
recently but he was passed fit beforehand and if Stevie had
been on from the beginning it might never have been as
tricky as it turned out.
He is such an important player for Liverpool that when he is
missing it is hard to cover for him. He and Mascherano were
the ideal men to have in midfield for a game like that last
night, and both were missed, with the Argentinian out at the
Xabi Alonso tried to get on the ball and influence play at
times but for me I’m afraid he is not the player right now
that he used to be. He struggled last season, for all his
undoubted ability on the ball when he has time, and with
youngster Damien Plessis still settling into the first team,
we never did get a proper grip in midfield last night.
Barry is strong in the tackle, good with possession,
energetic and experienced. The owners may have questioned
his value but if Liverpool had lost by a goal or two last
night – which they could so easily have done – then they
might have found themselves out of the Champions League
before they were in it.
And that would have proved far more costly and embarrassing
as we know, given the millions of pounds that come with
success in Europe.
I know the move for Barry looks dead in the water but I for
one hope it might yet be revived because it’s clear to me –
and I’m sure an increasing number of supporters – that
Liverpool really would benefit from having him.
But let’s end on a positive note with some well deserved
praise for Reina, so often an unsung hero like my old mate
For three years running now he has won the Golden Gloves
Award for keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier
League and last night he was unquestionably the Reds’ man of
His penalty save was crucial and while the tie is far from
over, if Liverpool can impose themselves in a fortnight and
get the victory we need, then we may well have the talented
Spaniard to thank for getting us through.
Reina rescues side
from sub-standard display
By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool were greeted with a torrent of
toilet roll in Liege last night. That, though, was no excuse
for the bog standard display that followed.
Only the heroics of Pepe Reina prevented Rafael Benitez from
starting a defining season of his Anfield tenure in abysmal
Maybe it was the return of the much-unloved green away
shirts that contributed to such a disappointing display in
this first leg of their Champions League third qualifying
round tie against Standard Liege.
But an abject Liverpool were grateful to return to
Merseyside with a goalless draw, thanks largely to Reina
saving an 11th-minute penalty from Standard’s Brazilian
full-back Dante having earlier produced an even better, if
somewhat contentious, stop to deny Marouane Fellaini.
That it took the visitors until injury time to force their
first shot on target tells the story for Benitez’s
alarmingly out-of-sorts side, who failed to score for only
the second time in 12 European away games.
Standard had presented every home supporter with a
complimentary toilet roll before the game in an attempt to
add spectacle to the atmosphere.
And for the Anfield return in a fortnight, Liverpool would
be well advised to follow suit given the nervy evening their
fans can anticipate if the team replicate this form. Of
course, progress to the group stages has rarely been without
a fright under Benitez.
But with qualification worth an estimated £12 million and
relations with the club’s American owners being strained by
the interminable Gareth Barry transfer saga, now is not the
time for Benitez’s famed Midas touch in the Champions League
to desert him.
It certainly wasn’t an evening to remember for Liverpool’s
debutants. Andrea Dossena was responsible for conceding the
harsh penalty while £19m striker Robbie Keane endured a
frustrating evening before being substituted midway through
the second half.
Benitez believes that Keane and Fernando Torres can
ultimately prove Europe’s most lethal strikeforce, but that
will only happen once the pair are given far greater service
than afforded to them last night.
Concerns over the less-than-ideal pre-season preparations
appeared justified as Liverpool appeared well off the pace,
lacking the cohesion, sharpness and aggression of the
Yes, Benitez hasn’t been helped by the loss of Ryan Babel,
Lucas Leiva and in particular Javier Mascherano to Olympic
duty, the trio remaining in Beijing for this weekend’s
quarter-finals. But Liverpool have been aware of their
absence for weeks.
There were no such problems for Standard. Skipper Steven
Defour declined the opportunity to represent Belgium in the
Far East and highly-rated midfielder Fellaini was flown back
from China especially for last night’s game.
No wonder. It has been more than 25 years since Standard
hosted a fixture of such gravitas, and banners laid out
before the game signalling “Hell-Side”, “Publik Hysterik”
and “Ultras-Inferno” made Liverpool aware they were in for a
hostile reception, even if the last lost some of its impact
by being draped upside down.
Benitez’s pursuit of Barry will most likely take a decisive
turn this evening should the Aston Villa midfielder be
cup-tied in Europe until next year by appearing in his
team’s UEFA Cup tie in Iceland.
But the Liverpool manager effectively settled the issue of
Xabi Alonso’s immediate future by including the Spaniard in
his starting line-up, at a stroke making him far less
appealing to prospective buyers in the current transfer
Liverpool had negotiated five previous Champions League
qualifying rounds and won nine of 11 previous games against
Belgian opposition, including victory in both legs against
Standard in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965.
Despite training at the stadium the previous evening, Steven
Gerrard was deemed only fit enough for bench duty, with
Liverpool keeping the same team that started the friendly
victory over Lazio last Friday. It meant a European bow for
Damien Plessis alongside Alonso in central midfield, and the
young Frenchman justified his manager’s faith with an
encouraging, mature performance; a rare positive for
Liverpool may have been unbeaten throughout pre-season but
they began their campaign proper in dreadful fashion. Buoyed
by the impressive backing of their home support on the steep
banks of the stadium known locally as “The Cauldron”,
Standard raced out of the blocks and Liverpool were reliant
on some brilliant goalkeeping by Reina to prevent an early
The game was only seven minutes old when a simple free-kick
once again caused panic in the Liverpool defence.
Fellaini met Dante’s delivery, the ball hit the Standard
midfielder on the shoulder and then struck the inside of the
post before Reina somehow clawed away and the visitors
eventually cleared to safety.
The home fans claimed a goal, but endless TV replays
couldn’t conclusively prove the ball had crossed the line
before the keeper’s intervention.
Five minutes later, referee Tom Henning Ovrebo awarded
Standard a penalty when Wilfried Dalmat’s right-wing cross
struck Dossena on the hand, despite the incident clearly
occurring outside the area. It was a poor decision, but
justice was done when Dante struck his spot-kick too close
to penalty expert Reina. Clearly, not the peak of Dante’s
Liverpool’s over-worked and worryingly uncertain defence
then sought to grapple some semblance of control and the
remainder of the half passed with relative calm.
But going forward, Benitez’s side were largely limited to
hopeful long balls up to Torres and Keane, with Alonso’s
25-yard free-kick that landed on the roof of the net their
only attacking moment of note in the first half.
The second half brought more of the same. Igor De Camargo
sent a free header wide from Dante’s cross in the 66th
minute and later brought Reina again into action, but
Standard found it difficult to maintain their hectic opening
pace in the final quarter.
Having weathered a considerable storm, Liverpool will now be
favourites to finish the job in a fortnight. But they will
have to do an awful lot better than this.
We need to improve
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Pepe Reina accepts Liverpool must step up
their game if they're to see off the challenge of Standard
Liege and qualify for the group stages of this season's
The Reds arrived back from Belgium in the early hours of
this morning after a disappointing display in Liege ensured
the third round tie remained firmly in the balance ahead of
the Anfield return in two weeks' time.
Reina was the Reds hero on the night, making a series of
fine saves including a 10th minute penalty stop from Dante
after Andrea Dossena was adjudged to have handled inside the
The Liverpool 'keeper was also called into action to scoop
the ball to safety after Feillani's header had spun back off
the post towards the net.
"We played really bad and it's clear we have to improve for
the game at Anfield," admitted Reina.
"The positive thing is we got a result, we kept a clean
sheet and it's still in our hands. But we didn't play well.
"I don't know if the ball was over the line before I cleared
it - I'll have to watch it on TV. Penalty saves are always
difficult but, like I say, at least we got the result on the
night. But we have to improve."
By Paul Hassall at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne - LFC
Rafael Benitez admitted his side were
lucky to escape with a draw after they produced a below-par
display in the first-leg of the Champions League qualifier
with Standard Liege.
The Reds boss was frustrated that his side could not
reproduce their good pre-season form against the Belgian
champions but feels the Anfield factor will play a vital
role when the two sides meet at Anfield in a fortnight's
"I think we were lucky not to concede," said Benitez.
"You never know what is going to happen when a game gets
underway but clearly we didn't play well.
"The performance was poor but the result was good. We didn't
concede away from home which is always important and to play
the second-leg at Anfield could make a massive difference.
"The positive thing was the result and we didn't have to say
too much about the display in the dressing room because
everybody already knew it wasn't good."
The Reds struggled to come to terms with Liege's fast start
to the contest and Benitez felt his side were their own
worst enemy and was grateful to keeper Pepe Reina for
a 0-0 draw with a first-half spot-kick save.
"They were very aggressive and we could not keep the ball,"
"Our passes were bad and we always lost the first and second
"In the first 20 minutes they were on top of us and after
that we controlled it a bit more.
"In the second-half they started the same way and played
more long balls and continued to win the first and second
balls and if you don't win them you will continue to be
"I was a little bit surprised because we were playing well
in pre-season with a lot of confidence.
"I told the players before, after watching their Super Cup
game against Anderlecht, that it could be like this.
"We knew they could be very aggressive. They were organised
and pressed well and it was difficult for us to keep the
"I think the entire team didn't play well; so the strikers,
midfielders and defenders didn't play well and Pepe Reina
was man of the match."
With Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel all on
Olympic duty and the likes of Fabio Aurelio and Martin
Skrtel out injured, Benitez felt his side lacked options on
the bench and admitted he had been forced to bring skipper
Steven Gerrard into the frame to try and inspire a late
"We have a lot of players away or injured and the
competition for the places needs to improve," he continued.
"Gerrard couldn't start and he is a player who can change a
game and if you have two or three players of this level on
the pitch it is different.
"We were talking with the doctor before the match and we
knew he couldn't start and we were thinking maybe we could
use him and in the end we did need him.
"I have been really pleased with the commitment of the
players in the pre-season but this game was different, it
was difficult and we didn't play well.
"Fabio Aurelio and Skrtel have been training and when they
are available we will have more options.
"Argentina play Holland in the Olympics too, so one player
will return earlier. If you have more players competing for
places it is better for the team."
to ignite in Belgium
By Rob Carragher - Setanta Sports
Liverpool produced a disappointing 0-0
display in their Champions League third round qualifying
a night when Dante Bonfim Costa missed a penalty
for Standard Liege.
Liverpool began the game brightly, but were shaken after
just six minutes as Standard struck the post with the game’s
first clear-cut chance.
A free-kick from the left was met by the unmarked Marouane
Fellaini, but the midfielder could only direct the ball onto
the post with his shoulder, forcing Liverpool keeper Reina
to scramble across his line to claw the ball away.
The Belgian champions looked buoyed by the early opportunity
and should have taken the lead on ten minutes when Andrea
Dossena was adjudged to have handled in the box.
A cross from Wilfried Dalmat struck Dossena’s arm from close
range and despite the incident occurring just outside the
penalty area, the referee pointed to the spot only for Dante
Bonfim Costa to see his disappointing penalty saved by Pepe
Indeed, Standard continued to look the more dangerous of the
two sides, with striker Felliani proving his dominance in
the air with two headers that flashed wide of Reina’s goal.
Liverpool by contrast were making little use of their
superior possession, choosing to launch long balls at every
opportunity and looking far off the pace required to face
such competitive opposition.
The task was to get no easier for the English outfit in the
second half, as Standard came out of the traps with even
Harried at every opportunity, the Liverpool stars were
becoming sloppy in possession and Standard were enjoying a
series of half-chances courtesy of the uncharacteristically
poor Liverpool backline.
Igor De Camargo was the man at the heart of the Standard
Liege attacks, proving an increasingly prevalent force in
the game and carving out Standard’s finest chances of the
On 65minutes, a long ball from deep was met just six yards
from goal by the Brazilian striker, but De Camargo headed
wide before seeing an almost carbon copy chance five minutes
later deflected away from the goal by the onrushing Reina.
Liverpool were undoubtedly rattled by their Belgian
opponents and Benitez was forced to field his injured
captain with twenty minutes to go in a desperate attempt to
gain some control in the game.
Gerrard’s introduction did stabilise The Reds briefly, but
Standard continued to threaten much more than their
opposition, albeit without the final product that they
Standard dominated late into the game and though Dalmat saw
a late shot flash across the Liverpool goal in injury time,
the 2005 Champions League winners held on for what
ultimately proved to be an unlikely away draw.