easy is just not an option
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Saturday’s game at the City of Manchester Stadium was so
bad, it made Liverpool’s recent trip to Villa Park look a
I can understand the argument some players may be thinking
ahead to the Champions League, but there’s no excuse for it.
Liverpool still have a lot to play for this season.
The players may look at the Premiership table and think
they’ve plenty of room for error in the race for the top
four, but for some of them there’s an even bigger prize at
stake – their Anfield careers.
Going through the motions can never be an option when you’re
playing for Liverpool, and Rafa Benitez has shown already
that even if you play a blinder in the Champions League
final itself, it won’t stop him buying a replacement if he
thinks it’s necessary.
A number of Liverpool players should take a long, hard look
at what happened in 2005.
They may have thought their heroics in Istanbul had earned
another season or two at the club, but Benitez made his
judgements based on games against teams such as Crystal
Palace, Southampton and Burnley.
Every footballer, no matter how limited their ability, can
raise their standards in big matches.
It’s producing consistently and motivating yourself to
produce the goods on low key occasions which differentiates
world class players from ordinary ones.
If someone blasts in the winning goal from 25 yards in
Athens this May, Benitez strikes me as the kind of manager
who’ll get the same player in his office a few weeks later
and explain he’s selling him because he never showed the
same form against Manchester City, Reading or Sheffield
That’s how it should be at Liverpool. You can’t turn form on
and off like a tap whenever you feel like it.
The Liverpool players should also be looking to impress the
They’ll know very little about many members of the side and
could bring a refreshingly neutral perspective on the
quality of players.
With new contracts on the horizon, many members of the squad
should be busting a gut to catch their eye.
Again, that’s not just about performing in the big European
games, but in the Premiership.
The forthcoming home fixtures against Middlesbrough and
Wigan are ideal opportunities for Liverpool to play
themselves into contention against Chelsea.
Middlesbrough have nothing to play for, but Wigan are
fighting for their lives.
In fact, the last two home games against Wigan and Charlton
could be as tricky as any with relegation at stake.
Anyone still thinking fourth spot is a formality could get a
rude awakening if Liverpool continue to coast through their
last league games.
Reds bore even Benitez
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez felt his team should
have shaded a listless 0-0 draw against Manchester City at
Benitez was upset because his team now have two more home
games this week, against Middlesbrough and Wigan, in which
they need secure the points which could help book third
place before a Champions League semi-final the following
week against Chelsea.
The Spaniard said: "I am really disappointed with that
performance. We should have been able to score when we were
on top in the first half and controlling the game.
"But the way we played after the break was poor. Every time
they had a long ball, a long throw or a free-kick we seemed
to be under pressure.
"I do not think my players had other things on their minds,
we had talked beforehand about making sure we were focused
for the league games.
"We could have had a penalty at the beginning when Jermaine
Pennant was pulled back, but they are saying the ball hit
Jamie Carragher on the arm at the end, and that probably
cancelled out the incidents."
content with point
By Mark Buckingham - Sky Sports
Steve Wigley felt a draw was a fair result as Manchester
City held Liverpool 0-0 at home.
In a game of few chances, City came closest to scoring when
DaMarcus Beasley struck the crossbar in the final 20
The stalemate stretches City's unbeaten run to five games
and first-team coach Wigley was content to accept a point.
"I think a draw was probably a fair result," Wigley told Sky
Sports. "We would have loved to have won
"Liverpool were slightly better in the first 20 minutes, but
I thought we finished the stronger.
"They are a very good side and we are happy with a point at
Without a Premiership win at The City of Manchester Stadium
since New Year's Day, Wigley is now hoping the team can
translate their away form to home turf.
He added: "We give them the utmost respect, but we are on a
good run ourselves.
"We kept the game tight and we knew the opportunities would
come, which they did at the end.
"Five games ago people were saying relegation, but we are
five games unbeaten and we have only conceded one goal.
"We scored three at Fulham last week, so if we reverse the
away form at home, which it was like before Christmas, we
will end the season very well."
held in dreary draw
By Mark Buckingham - Sky Sports
Manchester City and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw in a
forgettable affair at The City of Manchester Stadium.
DaMarcus Beasley came closest to lifting the tedium when
hitting the crossbar in the second half, but a winner was
not what either team deserved.
Bordering on the pointless, the first half had nothing which
will make it into any highlights package and merely served
to recommend free admission to these end-of-season
To suggest the two teams were labouring in the spring
sunshine would indicate great effort being dispensed and any
signs of sweat glistening on brows would have been a trick
of the light.
Liverpool did have a chance in the opening five minutes as
Jermaine Pennant got in front of Michael Ball, but was
unable to steer his shot past Andreas Isaksson.
Pennant should be praised for staying on his feet after a
tug from Ball, but he will still be disappointed with his
Sylvain Distin cut out a low John Arne Riise cross before
Emile Mpenza headed narrowly wide after stealing in front of
Xabi Alonso, with a reputation for scoring audacious goals,
tried his luck from the halfway line, but such a sensational
goal would have been out of keeping with the general
mediocrity of the game.
DaMarcus Beasley volleyed off target after Distin kept a
City corner alive before Jamie Carragher hit the
side-netting after Pennant's poor corner had trickled across
the six-yard box.
Liverpool started the second half with a little more tempo
with Steven Gerrard, playing in an advanced role, heading
off target and then seeing his deflected shot comfortably
saved by Isaksson.
Riise showed his penchant for vicious shooting with a
skidding low drive from 25 yards whizzing past the post
following a relatively bright start to the second period.
Dirk Kuyt turned Pennant's cross over under excellent
pressure from Richard Dunne before City were denied by the
crossbar 15 minutes from time.
Jose Reina's punch from a corner went as far as Beasley, who
cut back inside and curled his shot against the top of the
Ball dribbled a shot wide before City fans roared for a
penalty when a long throw-in landed on Carragher's arm.
Three minutes of injury time was a needless addition to the
game, which possessed all the fizz of a pre-season friendly.