After The Match 


Liverpool-Hull 2-2 (2-2)           13.12.08                              PL
Goals: Gerrard (24, 32)         McShane (12), Carragher (22 og)
Team: Reina, Dossena, Hyypia, Carragher, Arbeloa, Riera, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt
Subs: El Zhar (Benayoun 75), Babel (Riera 82),
Lucas (Mascherano 87)
Not used: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Ngog
Yellow: El Zahr (83), Hyypia (88)         McShane (22), Marney (47)
Red: None
Referee: A Wiley
Attendance: 43,835
Shots on target: 5-3
Shots off target: 14-6
Blocked shots: 8-2
Fouls conceded: 11-8
Corners: 8-4
Offsides: 3-4
Possession: 67.2-32.8
Yellow: 2-2
Red: 0-0
HEADLINES "We showed character
to come back..."
Rafael Benitez
1612: Liverpool owe a debt of gratitude to Carragher
1512: Benitez singing from his own songsheet
1512: Benayoun rues dropped Premier League points
1512: Liverpool count cost of home form
1512: Is Benny Hill now Liverpool’s defensive coach?
1512: Hyypia can’t explain Liverpool's
          lost points in Anfield matches

1312: Brown: Referee was ball-watching
1312: Rafa: The game was too open
1312: Reds foiled again by fierce Tigers  

Liverpool owe a debt
of gratitude to Carragher

Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo

Any player who scores an own goal is going to be disappointed, particularly when that player is someone who cares as much about the club as Jamie Carragher does.

There were a few people in the media who couldn’t wait to have a pop at Carragher after he put through his own net against Hull.

Some were all too happy to point out this isn’t the first time he has scored an own goal but I look at it from another perspective – how many goals does Carragher save Liverpool every season by making last ditch interventions and getting himself into the kind of positions where other defenders would be too scared to go?

Own goals are an occupational hazard for defenders like Carragher. If you put your body on the line and make tackle after tackle, the odds are that every now and again the ball will deflect the wrong way or come off you in an unexpected way.

But I say this without fear of contradiction – Rafa Benitez will know just how fortunate he is to be able to count on the services of a player like Carragher who gives everything for the cause and every other manager in the country would love to have a player like him as well.

Think back to Istanbul when AC Milan were really pushing on in extra-time and looked likely to snatch a winner.

Who was the defender who made a steady succession of blocks when his team needed him most? Jamie Carragher.

He didn’t worry about the cramp which had left him barely able to run, nor did he worry about the consequences of what might happen if the ball took a ricochet off him after he flew into the challenge. Carragher just kept on going in there and had he not done so then it is fair to say that Liverpool would not now have a fifth European Cup in their trophy room.

Another example of his commitment to the team and his will to win was when he tried to stay on the pitch after breaking his leg at Blackburn.

You don’t do that unless you are a very special individual.

That’s why every Liverpool fan will forgive Carragher the odd own goal and why they will keep encouraging him to go in where it matters – because they know that makes him worth his weight in gold.

Benitez singing from
his own songsheet

Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

For several years Johnny Cash has been the crooner of choice of the Anfield crowd.

But perhaps it’s now time they switched to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Because, like it or loathe it, Rafa Benitez is going to do it HIS way.

Frustrated fans, a complaining Press corps or a £20m striker giving him hurt looks down the touchline, is not going to change the self-confident Spaniard’s way of thinking.

Benitez was at his most bloody-minded on Saturday.

Few queried the 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Robbie Keane left forlornly looking on; after all it was the same system which had yielded a 3-1 away win seven days previously.

But as the Reds struggled against a refreshingly inventive Hull side, his search for “solutions” defied popular thinking.

Benitez’s explanations afterwards – especially in introducing midfielder Lucas ahead of striker Keane – were eloquent and intriguing.

Regardless of the level of tactical planning which went into the switches, however, they didn’t work.

But we’ve been here before with Benitez.

The Spaniard’s Liverpool successes – already considerable – have all come in the face of adversity.

The Miracle of Istanbul, an FA Cup final which looked all but lost until Steven Gerrard’s amazing intervention – a Champions League campaign which started disastrously and ended on the brink of a third final in four years.

All have featured Benitez’s maverick thinking.

This current campaign isn’t anything like as fraught as those famous fightbacks.

But the frustration comes in that it could be so much better.

There is a real worry now that big wins over Manchester United and Chelsea are being undermined by home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham and now Hull.

Title winning teams don’t draw three successive home games, moaned the after-match phone-in ‘experts’.

Perhaps. But, title winning teams do possess the character which allows them to recover from losing positions, as Liverpool have now done a remarkable eight times in all competitions this season, six of them victories.

Liverpool’s position could be better. But it could be so much worse.

In truth the Reds got lucky on Saturday. Yes, really.

While another frustrated full-house bemoaned the loss of two more points, a more reflective analysis might have realised it could have been much, much grimmer.

Bernard Mendy was enjoying the kind of afternoon which threatened to give full-back Andrea Dossena twisted blood.

Then Paul McShane suffered concussion and the winger was pressed into full-back duties, instantly reducing his effectiveness and allowing the Italian to breath a huge sigh of relief.

Liverpool pulled back a 2-0 deficit with the help of a couple of judicious shoves on Michael Turner in front of The Kop. Each time referee Alan Wiley was admiring the quality of the Liverpool moves rather than the fouls.

Then the awful official ignored a Javier Mascherano handball inside the penalty area.

But Liverpool rode their luck, finally settled and for an hour were usually the team most likely to make the breakthrough.

The biggest talking point afterwards was Benitez’s decision to chase that winning goal without Keane.

The Irishman looked crushed and demoralised at being ignored.

But the biggest concern for the striker is that by far Benitez’s preferred formation is 4-2-3-1.

If Fernando Torres is fit, he will always be the one; Albert Riera, Ryan Babel, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun will jostle for the wide roles. . . but the identity of the man in the middle of that attacking triangle is the first name on Liverpool’s teamsheet every week.

If Robbie Keane is going to challenge for Steven Gerrard’s place in the team, he will lose every time.

The only respite for Keane would be a switch to a more unfamiliar 4-4-2.

As ever, Benitez will have solutions – possibly solutions we haven’t even thought of yet.

And difficult thought it may be, Reds fans must keep faith with him.

Despite Saturday’s disappointment, Liverpool are still very much in the title race . . . with Fernando Torres and Marin Skrtel still to return.

“If you want to win titles you have to keep calm,” said Benitez.

All we can do is sit back, and let him do it his way.

Benayoun rues dropped
Premier League points

By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo

Yossi Benayoun admitted Liverpool need to play more with their heads if they are to retain their status as Premier League leaders.

The Reds dropped another two home points in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hull and had to thank Steven Gerrard for getting them back on level terms with a double goal blast.

Benayoun was delighted with the character shown by Rafa Benitez’s side after their latest comeback but believes they should have gone on to win the game had they showed more composure.

“Even after we went two goals down we never thought it was game over, especially after our experiences this season,” he said.

“But we were all really disappointed to find ourselves two goals down because I thought we started the game very well and we were the better side for the first ten to 15 minutes. “Then we conceded a goal and lost a bit of control but after that we showed a lot of character to come back.

“After that, though, we should have come back to win the game because we had quite a few chances. “But in the second half we did not play with our heads enough. We were desperate to score and didn’t use the wide areas enough.

“It’s a shame.”

Liverpool gave themselves another mountain to climb after Paul McShane exploited some slack defending at the far post and Jamie Carragher scored his second own goal of the season.

But Gerrard dragged his team back with a pair of close range efforts which Benayoun believes show just why he is regarded as one of the best players around.

“We know how important the captain is to the team in every game, not just in this one,” he said.

“He showed a lot of character again and when he pushes forward he takes the rest of the team with him. This is why he is one of the best midfielders in the world and we were all grateful for the goals he scored against Hull because they got us back into the game.”

Liverpool count cost of home form

By Russell Barder - BBC Sport

With the groans of dissatisfaction ringing around Anfield on Saturday you could be forgiven for thinking that Liverpool are a club in crisis.

However, they remain top of the Premier League, despite a third straight home draw that has raised serious doubts about their title-winning credentials.

Consecutive goalless encounters with Fulham and West Ham preceded this weekend's 2-2 draw with Hull City and Rafael Benitez's side will know that this kind of form is no way to end a 19-year wait for a league championship triumph. 606: DEBATE
If we had beaten Stoke, Fulham, West Ham and Hull at home we would be nine points clear at the moment.

Despite their uninspiring recent home form, Liverpool have been aided by the fact teams around them are failing to capitalise when they falter - and their fans' frustrations are aimed largely at their team's inability to pull clear.

For the second weekend this season, no team from the so-called big four recorded a victory and Benitez will undoubtedly be delighted to see his side top despite them yet to hit top gear.

The new generation of Liverpool supporters will struggle to remember the last time the title arrived on the red half of Merseyside and, with this season turning into one of the closest Premier League races since its inception in 1992, they have rarely had a better chance to end that wait.

There was a nervous hush inside Anfield at the weekend as the home fans prepared themselves for another potentially tricky clash - and once the visitors had taken a shock two-goal lead their frustration was clearly audible.

After the game Benitez admitted, "everyone was getting very nervy" and it was clear that the reaction of the fans after Liverpool had gone two goals down affected the players. Every misplaced pass, missed tackle and hurried clearance was greeted by a chorus of discontented voices and the players suffered as a result.

Hull did not let their hosts settle and if it were not for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, the two dropped points could have easily become three.

The midfielder came to the rescue once again as he dragged his side out if trouble with two goals inside 10 minutes to take his season's total to 11.

Hull were intent on playing good attacking football and with wins away at Newcastle, Arsenal and Tottenham already under their belt, it is a philosophy that has helped propel Phil Brown's side to sixth in the Premier League in their debut season in the top flight.

It made for an open and attacking game which should have suited Benitez's team. However, despite largely dominating possession and creating numerous chances, less than half of their 21 attempts at goal failed to trouble Boaz Myhill in the Tigers' goal. A fact that tells its own story.

It may be stating the obvious, but when Benitez said "you have to score more goals to win these games" he highlighted exactly where Liverpool have been going wrong.

Those words would have been ringing in Robbie Keane's ears as he was once again left to watch his side struggle from the substitute's bench for the second league match in a row, no doubt desperate to prove himself worthy of Benitez's attention.

The £20.3m summer signing has not enjoyed the best start to his Liverpool career but, in the absence of the injured Fernando Torres, the sight of Keane jogging up and down the touchline while his side laboured was puzzling at best.

The fans were calling for the Irish striker to be brought on as early as the 35th minute as Liverpool took their foot off the gas having fought back from being two goals down.

The Merseysiders do not have the strength in depth to match their rivals and the absence of a player of Torres' calibre would hurt any team.

However, Benitez still had the means at his disposal to change things around against Hull and, with Chelsea held to a 1-1 draw by West Ham on Sunday, Liverpool remain at the top of the table.

After yet another week where results have gone in their favour, Liverpool know they are lucky to still be leading as they head into the hectic Christmas period.

But the stats do not lie. The fact remains that they lead the way after one of their best starts to a Premier League campaign and they are still well placed to launch a serious title challenge with a trip to Arsenal their next challenge.

Is Benny Hill now
Liverpool’s defensive coach?

Comment by Andrew Gilpin - Liverpool Daily Post

In today’s tough economic times £27m can make or break well-known companies, never mind Premier League managers. So the plights of two struggling players recently bought for that massive outlay is of particular interest.

A £7m full-back who’s clueless on the pitch. A £20m striker who can’t even get on it.

It seems like Benitez is playing a game of chicken with Robbie Keane which isn’t helping anyone.

When asked by a hungry pack of journalists about what the American owners would think as he left a £20m striker on the sidelines, the Spaniard was typically ambiguous, appearing to say he’d like more £20m players on the bench next season.

Typical Benitez. Everything can be used to lay down a marker about needing more funds.

With a new contract close to being agreed, Benitez needs a good run in the league to sign, seal and deliver it. At Anfield, the form’s not there and now is not the time for being stubborn.

It’s now three home draws against teams those with realistic ambitions of the title should be beating.

On top of that, the match against Hull was one of those days where one of the elements which had led Liverpool to top spot in the Premier League went awry.

You’d have been forgiven for thinking Benny Hill had been brought in as a special guest defensive coach after two comedic errors continued the struggle to chase down a league title no one wants to win.

If something was going to deny Benitez’s men the title, you would have thought it would have been lack of goals, not defensive fragility.

Liverpool’s backline is a Fantasy Football dream, as is captain Steven Gerrard, who once again rode to the rescue as the defence capitulated.

Plucky Hull weren’t going to park the bus in front of the Anfield goal and with Liverpool urged on the attack, the Tigers found space to unwind all of Benitez’s careful planning.

Sami Hyypia, brought in to combat Hull’s perceived strength in the air, got nowhere near a high-flighted ball for the first goal.

And the less said about the second the better, although at least it’s pleasing to see that Jamie Carragher’s finishing is improving.

If Benny Hill had been at Melwood, a lot of time would have been spent coaching beleaguered full-back Andrea Dossena in the art of falling over.

At best he looks slightly off the pace, and at worst lost in a left-back position he seems unable to keep pace with.

While he’s encouraging going forward, Dossena has poor positional sense and was shown up by a Hull right-back in an advanced role.

Amazingly, he’s still number one choice for the Italian national team, but not for much longer on this evidence.

He was out-jumped for the first goal and out-paced for the second.

And you could sense the usually supportive Anfield crowd were getting impatient with him.

He did improve in the second half, largely due to the fact that Hull seemed content to sit on what they had, plus tormentor-in-chief Bernard Mendy had been moved into defence.

There is a ray of light. Dossena is as bad as Patrice Evra was when he started his Manchester United career yet through hard work and good coaching, he’s become one of the league’s best attacking left-backs.

Whether Liverpool have enough time to let the Italian adapt while staying near the top of the league is doubtful.

And Benitez does have a good track record in shipping out players he feels haven’t worked out, unlike his predecessor Gerard Houllier, who remained convinced everyone he bought would eventually come good.

That must be ominous for Keane, omitted from the starting line-up despite a bright display against PSV Eindhoven.

Benitez’s antidote to failing to net in the past two home league games was to leave Dirk Kuyt up front on his own, employing Gerrard just behind him.

But while Kuyt may be an able plodder, he is no matchwinner – something Liverpool need if they are to snatch that elusive title.

Fernando Torres and Gerrard aside, the last person who could truly conjure a goal from nothing was Luis Garcia. His replacement Yossi Benayoun doesn’t come close.

In the second half as Hull were pegged back, Liverpool cried out for a match-winner, but still Benitez decided against bringing on £20m Keane.

To bring on Lucas for Javier Mascherano with minutes left was a baffling decision as Hyypia was forced into becoming a makeshift striker at the end.

Stubborn Benitez got it wrong. He should have played Keane and binned Dossena.

But wouldn’t it be typical Benitez bloody-mindedness to ignore the pleas of the former and persist with the latter?

Hyypia can’t explain Liverpool's
lost points in Anfield matches

By Andrew Gilpin - Liverpool Daily Post

Defender Sami Hyypia is at a loss to explain Liverpool’s recent poor home form.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hull continued a run of three stalemates at Anfield which have hit Rafael Benitez’s side’s title challenge.

And after the draw, the big Finn said: “We tried to do everything we could to win, but today it didn’t work.

“Of course it’s disappointing to draw at home again but we need to look forward. If we knew what it was we’d address it and we wouldn’t have had three draws.

“I didn’t feel personally that there was extra pressure on us or anything. We’re top of the table and should enjoy it and be confident of doing our jobs.”

Hyypia was impressed with Phil Brown’s newly-promoted Hull, the surprise package of the Premier League so far this season. And he was astounded with their attacking endeavour, after both Stoke and Fulham defended for their lives to gain 0-0 draws at Anfield.

“Hull showed why they are so high in the table,” said Hyypia.

“They have a good spirit in their team, work very hard and made life very difficult for us today. It’s disappointing we didn’t finish the job.

“Hull played quite an open game, they came to attack, which maybe Stoke and Fulham didn’t do.

“They showed great work ethic to keep it at 2-2.”

But the defender believes Liverpool can’t dwell on their recent profligacy at home, with the next match away at fifth-placed Arsenal.

“We’re only in December but it’s very close,” said Hyypia. “There’s a long way to go. Of course things could be better, we could have more points than we do, but we just have to live with it.

“We have to live with what we have now. We have to concentrate on the next game and try to win that. We can’t change the past, but maybe we can learn from what we did wrong.

“It will be a tough game against Arsenal but we’ll go to win and hopefully come out with three points.”

Brown: Referee was ball-watching

BBC Sport Online

Hull boss Phil Brown accused referee Alan Wiley of being a "ball-watcher" and missing several fouls as Liverpool fought back for a 2-2 draw at Anfield.

The visitors went into a shock 2-0 lead after 22 minutes, but league leaders Liverpool were level within 10 minutes.

"I think the worst kind of footballer is a ball-watcher and, for me, every time the ball went into the box the referee was ball-watching," said Brown.

"A lot of the times Dirk Kuyt was at the back post fouling Michael Turner."

A Paul McShane header and a Jamie Carragher own goal gave the Tigers a quick two-goal cushion, but Steven Gerrard scored twice in eight minutes to get Liverpool back on level terms.

"If you have a look at the first goal, Michael Turner was fouled; if you have a look at the second goal, Michael Turner was fouled," Brown told BBC Sport.

"Now, in front of the Kop, are you going to get those kinds of decision? People say, 'Who gets penalties in front of the Kop?'

"If you look at Sam Ricketts's incident towards the end of the game, it's a penalty - the lad trips him up.

"People might be thinking I'm nit-picking - you have to be at your best to come to Liverpool and get something but so does the referee.

"Liverpool were at their best, there's no doubt about it, but we went 2-0 up against them so I'm aggrieved about the result, to tell you the truth.

"To be a Hull City manager and to be disappointed with getting a point at Anfield is maybe a sign of where we've come from."

Rafa: The game was too open

By Joe Curran at Anfield - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez believes that the frenetic nature of today's 2-2 draw with Hull City could be to blame for Liverpool's failure to take all three points.

Steven Gerrard scored a brace to help the Reds come back from 2-0 down in the first half, but Benitez couldn't hide his frustrations and admitted his team made too many mistakes.

"We showed character to come back and scored some good goals," he said. "But we couldn't play the final pass properly and the game was too open.

"The game was a little bit too frenetic and you have to be able to control things a lot more in these games.

"I was really pleased with the first few minutes. But we conceded two goals and everybody was a little bit nervous after that.

"It can make a massive difference when you score first, but the reaction of the team was very good when we went two goals down.

"They were a threat playing on the counter-attack. We know that teams like this will try to be organised and play in this way.

"We made too many mistakes. These are the kind of games that you have to win. We are disappointed, but we cannot change anything."

Reds foiled again by fierce Tigers


Liverpool struggled to a third successive Premier League draw at Anfield as new-boys Hull impressed on the road again, the game ending 2-2.

The Tigers had already won at Arsenal and Tottenham and scored three in defeat at Manchester United.

And if not for Steven Gerrard, they would have ended Liverpool's season-long unbeaten home record.

Hull were two ahead on Saturday through Paul McShane and a Jamie Carragher own goal before Gerrard scored twice in eight minutes, taking his tally for the season to 11.

Gerrard was among the players returning after being rested from the Champions League win over Eindhoven in midweek, along with Jose Reina, Dirk Kuyt and Xabi Alonso.

Manager Rafael Benitez reverted to the same side which won at Blackburn last weekend, which meant Robbie Keane was on the bench and Sami Hyypia preferred to Daniel Agger.

Hull made just one change from the side which beat Middlesbrough last Saturday, Bernard Mendy taking over from Dean Marney, who was on the bench.

And although Hull were put under instant pressure, they soon started to confront Liverpool all over the pitch, working out that Andrea Dossena has limited pace and Reina does not take kindly to being pressured.

Hull could have been ahead after five minutes when full-back Sam Ricketts burst down the line, brushing Yossi Benayoun aside, and fed Nicky Barmby on the Hull left.

There were loud appeals for a penalty when the former Liverpool man's cross looked to have struck the arm of Javier Mascherano as he slid in to clear for a corner.

The appeals were waved away but it was no surprise when Hull took the lead after 12 minutes.

A Geovanni free-kick on the right sailed right across the box and was knocked back into the danger area by Marlon King, where McShane rose to head into the top corner.

Hull were full of pace, drive and desire and after 22 minutes they scored again.

After switching the play from left to right, via King's long ball, Mendy went past Dossena once more and pulled the ball back into the six-yard box, where Carragher turned it high into his own net.

Just two minutes later however, Liverpool pulled one back. Kuyt surged down the right and fired in a low cross which fell for Gerrard to clip home from six yards.

McShane was booked for body-checking Gerrard and never seemed to recover from the blow, being replaced two minutes later by Marney.

And in what was now a tremendous match, Liverpool were level after 32 minutes, again through Gerrard.

Carragher's cross was headed down by Kuyt for Benayoun to hook on, giving Gerrard a 10-yarder for the equaliser.

Marney was booked for a foul on Hyypia two minutes after the break, the game continuing at the same rip-roaring pace.

Liverpool almost took the lead after 59 minutes when Hyypia's downward header from Gerrard's corner hit the foot of a post.

Then Albert Riera saw a swerving effort punched away by Boaz Myhill.

Hull were more content to defend and hit on the break, with Geovanni seeing one run end with a low drive that went wide of the far post.

Alonso curled a 20-yarder just over the bar, with Liverpool sending on Moroccan winger Nabil El Zhar for Benayoun after 74 minutes. Three minutes later Dean Windass came on for Barmby in only his fourth league appearance of the season.

Myhill then saved well from El Zhar, diving on the ball to halt Gerrard in the six-yard box. After 82 minutes Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Riera, before El Zhar was booked for a foul on Kamil Zayatte.

Lucas came on for Mascherano with four minutes left, the Argentinian having failed to stamp his usual authority on the match but Liverpool were unable to find a winner.

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