After The Match 


Liverpool-Blackburn 1-1 (0-1)      14.10.06                          PL
Goals: Bellamy (64)                 McCarthy (17)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Riise, Hyypia, Carragher, Alonso, Gerrard (c), Pennant, Aurelio, Crouch, Bellamy
Subs: Garcia (Pennant 53)
Not used: Dudek, Paletta, Gonzalez, Zenden
Yellow: Hyypia (79)         Bentley (28), Neill (42), Savage (58)
Red: None
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 44,206
Shots on target: 9-3
Shots off target: 9-2
Possession: 62-38
Fouls conceded: 6-17
Corners: 8-1
Offsides: 2-7
Yellow: 1-3


HEADLINES "...we were losing
the second balls."

     Rafael Benitez

1610: Why new look Bellamy will be Anfield success
1610: Falling short again in quest for 'Holy Grail'
1510: Bellamy delighted to break duck
1410: Rafa rues missed chances
1410: Hughes hails Rovers commitment
1410: Bellamy nets but Rovers claim draw 


Why new look Bellamy
will be Anfield success

By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

Mark Hughes knows the conundrum that is Craig Bellamy better than most.

And his views are crystal clear. "He will be a success at Liverpool because he is an exceptional footballer with a great work ethic," he declared. "He tries to improve every single day."

Those words are reassuring. Bellamy will need that work ethic and that willingness to embrace new ideas, because Liverpool are reinventing him.

He scored his first Premiership goal for the Reds on Saturday, but not in the fashion most fans had anticipated.

Think of a typical Craig Bellamy goal and you think of him sprinting away down the channel, using his electrifying pace to render a covering defence useless, then clipping the ball past an exposed goalkee per.

Like he did on Wednesday for Wales against Cyprus. And like he did so regularly for Blackburn and Newcastle.

But his first goal in front of the Kop was altogether different. It was a proper poacher's goal - losing his markers in a packed penalty area then guiding a close range header past Brad Friedel.

And it is a skill he will be asked to master more and more throughout his Anfield career, because Liverpool do not play to Bellamy's most obvious attributes.

Under Rafael Benitez, the Reds play a high line. They try to control a match with patient passing, switching play from one flank to the other, before producing a damaging cross or penetrating pass.

It's a system tailor-made for target-men like Peter Crouch - five goals already this season - to profit from, but not one which allows speed kings like Bellamy to dash onto balls played over the top.

Ironically, Benitez's predecessor played a system which would have suited Bellamy perfectly, a long ball game which Michael Owen relished.

But when the current coach arrived, he demanded a more varied style of play, and Bellamy will have to learn to adapt.

He certainly seems willing enough, which says much for Bellamy's desire to do well at Anfield.

When he sat down to discuss a move with a manager across the park two years ago, much of the conversation revolved around the role he would be asked to play as a new Everton striker.

Talks broke down because, amongst other things, Bellamy did not want to reduce his goal threat by being asked to chase balls in wide positions.

Such is Liverpool's style of play, however, the wide areas are the positions Bellamy is most likely to find space to operate in - as he did so damagingly against Chelsea in the Community Shield.

On Saturday he stuck solidly to the central areas, and was eventually rewarded with a goal.

Bellamy's role at Liverpool is a work in progress, but looks like one the player is determined to make a success of. The same cannot be said, however, for the wide positions at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard was back in his favoured centre stage against Blackburn.

But the switch simply underlined what most Reds fans have known all along. Their skipper is not just the best central midfielder at the club, he is also the best right winger.

It wasn't a case of what Jermaine Pennant did - he produced nine crosses before half-time, the first five of which threatened danger in the penalty box.

Pennant is an out and out winger, and defending is not a strong point. And as well as exposing Steve Finnan, Pennant's presence also prevents Finnan from getting forward and supplying the kind of quality crosses he regularly weighed in with last season.

Benitez was clearly unhappy with the balance, too, because Luis Garcia came on just seven minutes into the second half and Liverpool instantly improved.

But if the balance on the right flank is out of kilter, the left-hand side doesn't look any more effective.

Liverpool started with Fabio Aurelio down that flank, in a more advanced role than the one he was asked to occupy when Galatasary exposed him with such relish in the Champions League recently.

This time he had John Arne Riise behind him, rather than Mark Gonzalez in front, but the end product was pretty much the same.

David Bentley delivered crosses from deep time after time after time.

The ploy eventually delivered a goal. With Finnan sucked in from the far post to cover his central defence and Pennant left isolated upfield, Benni McCarthy was in splendid isolation to roll in the opener. Again Benitez made a switch, swapping Aurelio and Riise around, from where the Norwegian was able to make more penetrating runs.

Strangely it wasn't a cross or a shot from Riise which roused the frustrated Kop, but a lung-burning dash to charge down a Blackburn clearance for a throw-in.

The home fans, sick and tired of lacklustre passing and tackling, roared their appreciation and a momentum was gained which culminated in Bellamy's equaliser.

That goal at least avoided the ignominy of defeat, but it didn't gloss over the deficiencies Benitez has to address in the coming weeks.

Craig Bellamy is a player who looks like he can come to terms with a new role at Anfield. There are others, however, who he can be less certain about.

Falling short again
in quest for 'Holy Grail'

By Chris Wellman - Daily Post

Games like Saturday, are a barometer for Liverpool's season - good in patches, poor in others that leaves us ultimately falling short in our quest for the "Holy Grail" of the Premiership.

We are only two months in and we find ourselves already some eight points off the pace set by our arch rivals down the East Lancs Road. This is a campaign that is proving to be a mixture of highs and lows that has so defined our league performances over recent years.

True, Liverpool being Liverpool they will inevitably go on a 'winning streak' that will have us sitting in the higher echelons of the table come May, but consistency is the key to this if we are really going to challenge for the prize we crave.

A premature view you may think? But even the most ardent Liverpool supporter must surely know that our 16-year wait will continue as we stutter once again to impose ourselves in the 'bread and butter' games.

Saturday was a prime example of this failing. We were good without being spectacular in those first 20 minutes, but once again we failed to initiate that opening strike and there was an inevitability that without this we may suffer - cue McCarthy's goal. A day of exasperation lay ahead for the Anfield faithful.

What will worry most fans is the inexplicable lack of fighting spirit shown once we were behind in that first half, no-one can knock the players' commitment to the cause, it just looked from the outside that Liverpool were incapable of masterminding a quick response, they had nothing tangible to show for their early endeavour and our performance quickly evaporated as the half came to a frustrating close.

Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso were industrious through the midfield, but a lack of cohesive link-up play with our front two, left all wondering how they would score not when.

Pennant in particular had a frustrating afternoon that would end in his substitution. You can't argue with his willingness to succeed and show for the ball, it's just he cut a forlorn figure at times. An arm round from a colleague or a cajoling word from Rafael Benitez will hopefully remedy that.

Being ultra critical, the defence, which over the last couple of years has been the hallmark and basis of Liverpool's success, is looking ill at ease. It is hard to put a finger on the problem, it is essentially the same incumbents in each position (bar Fabio Aurelio) but we are being found wanting at pivotal moments in games.

Saturday was a prime example. Liverpool were on top and probing for a lead, when in a flash the visitors had scored as hesitation spread through the defence as they failed to cut out David Bentley's cross. There is a need to get back to basics and instil the steely resolve that has been missing. Jose Reina is part of this headache. A fine keeper who has shown his worth, but is not commanding his area at present. His momentary hesitation when he came to meet the cross but back-tracked fuels this debate.

A game of "two halves" is a cliché over used in football, but was rather apt for this encounter as the second half began. Liverpool adopted a siege mentality on their opponents as they pinned them back in their own half for large if not all times in the second half. Wave after wave of incessant pressure was witnessed as if Liverpool had been slightly irked that they should find themselves behind in their own fortress.

Sadly there was only one goal and that was the culmination of a barrage of corners for Liverpool as finally an Aurelio cross evaded all but Craig Bellamy, who gleefully headed home. This was an important a goal as any the Welshman will score in his fledgling Liverpool career as his reaction testified.

He has been very committed since his arrival, ingratiating himself with team-mates and fans alike, but he had grown frustrated at his inability to open his Premiership account.

On a day of few positives, this was a bright spot to savour and bodes well for the future.

Unfortunately, this was not the catalyst for a Liverpool win that the Anfield faithful yearned for. Blackburn kept their foes at bay with the returning Brad Friedel on excellent form.

Indeed on a rare foray out of their half, Blackburn almost snatched an improbable victory with Bentley directing inches wide his effort after further indecision in the Liverpool ranks.

There will be no knee-jerk reactions from Benitez as he attempts to answer more questions over his team's failings,.

If a change is needed in some quarters to address the situation, it will be made. Liverpool know they have to improve consistently and fast and where better to rediscover their touch in the league, than at the home of their deadliest rivals - Old Trafford.

A result there, could define the remainder of the season.

Bellamy delighted to break duck


Craig Bellamy was delighted to score against Blackburn but admitted he was disappointed with his overall performance in the 1-1 draw.

You could have scripted that Bellamy would end his league goal duck for Liverpool against the club and management who took him to their hearts last season following his unhappy experience at Newcastle.

That help, friendship and guidance came last term in the peaceful Lancashire hills around Blackburn's Brockhall training ground from the Welsh clan there - his former international boss Mark Hughes, coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, and the flamboyant Robbie Savage.

Until last week, Bellamy had managed only one goal for club and country since early April and it had been weighing on his mind.

But a goal for Wales last Wednesday and his face-saving equaliser for Liverpool in front of the Kop, and the striker is again up and running.

Blackburn had dominated much of the early proceedings, boosted by a Benni McCarthy strike.

But when the Bellamy goal finally arrived the doubts in his mind were swept away.

He said: "Obviously I am delighted with the goal, but my performance was nowhere near what I want it to be.

"Hopefully this will help me in a different way and help me to kick-start the team.

"I had to wait a long time last season for my first Blackburn goal, the end of October if I recall, so I'm a bit ahead of schedule. I had injuries then and that held me back."

Bellamy scored 17 goals in 28 league and cup games for Rovers, and wants that sort of return at Anfield.

He said: "My problems here are all down to me. When you are desperate to do well you try too hard at times and that can play on your mind. And not getting a goal early on did weigh a little bit heavy on me with a different set of players.

"Usually I am quite good in those situations but maybe because this is 'my' club it did have an effect on me, and that's why I'm a little disappointed with myself.

"I recall watching DVDs of last season, anything to help. Obviously this goal will help me go on."

He added: "We have taken some criticism this season, but you have to get on with it and show character. There's enough players here with a lot of character.

"There will be a few bumps along the way but hopefully at the end of the season there will be titles and trophies."

Rafa rues missed chances

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez admits his side had the chances to win at home to Blackburn.

The Reds had numerous opportunities to claim victory at Anfield, but in the end had to come from behind to claim a point.

Rovers went ahead through Benni McCarthy's first-half strike and Liverpool were grateful for Craig Bellamy finding the net with a header mid-way through the second half.

Benitez was pleased with the performance of his side after the break after switching things around following a disappointing first 45 minutes.

"I think in the second half we played much better than the first half," Benitez told Sky Sports.

"In the first half they pressed hard and high but in the second half we created enough to win it.

"They were pressing high, it was difficult and we were losing the second balls.

"But in the second half we started winning the second balls and playing with the wingers and the strikers and I thought that was totally different."

Benitez was happy to see Bellamy get off the mark in the Premiership for Liverpool.

"Yes I think it's important for him and also for the team," he said. "We weren't talking about when he would score but it's positive news."

The Reds have seen their injury concerns lengthened by the news of blows to Dirk Kuyt and Daniel Agger while away on international duty.

Liverpool travel to Bordeaux in midweek as the UEFA Champions League returns and while remaining hopeful of better news on the injury front, Benitez is far from confident.

He added: "All of them are now with the doctors and the physio and maybe we can have one or two of them (available) but I think it will be difficult."

Hughes hails Rovers commitment

By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports

Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes was delighted with his side's commitment as they battled for a point against Liverpool at Anfield.

Benni McCarthy had given Rovers a shock lead on a rare first-half attack before Craig Bellamy headed home against his former club to claim a point for the hosts.

Liverpool dominated for large periods of the game and Rovers were forced to withstand large amounts of pressure as Liverpool pushed firstly for an equaliser, then a late winner.

Hughes was full of praise for his side following the draw as they stifled Liverpool's threat for large parts.

"I thought we showed excellent commitment and bravery today, when you come to grounds like Anfield you have to be brave in possession and brave out of possession and we were certainly that," Hughes told Sky Sports.

"We weren't overawed, we came here to play football and I think in the first half Liverpool really struggled to get a grip on the game.

"Second half they went a little bit more direct and bypassed our midfield and we just had to withstand a little bit more pressure in the second half as you'd expect being the away side.

"Even so, even in the second half we had an opportunity towards the end where we could have possibly got the three points but given the circumstances leading into the game, we had a lot of players away, our two full backs flew right across the world to get here today, they were excellent, committed and a professional performance."

Hughes singled out goalscorer McCarthy for his work rate since he joined the club.

McCarthy netted his fourth goal for Rovers on Saturday and Hughes is pleased with his overall contribution.

"He's a natural goalscorer, I've said that since he's come to the club," he said.

"I was pleased with his general play and his work ethic. He's come here and it's taken him aback the amount of work you have to do but he's continued to score goals and his work ethic was really good today.

"He worked really hard for the cause and was very important for us."

McCarthy replaced Bellamy at Ewood Park over the summer and Hughes is backing the Liverpool striker to continue his successes with Rovers for The Reds.

Bellamy netted his first Premiership goal for Rafa Benitez's men on Saturday and Hughes admits he was half expecting that to be the case coming into the game.

"It always seems to happen like that," he added. "We just switched off and he was there to score.

"I can't say I was pleased for him but you can take my point, he was excellent for us last year and we wish him well because he was a big part of our success and I'm sure he'll be a big success."

Bellamy nets but Rovers claim draw


Craig Bellamy's first Premiership goal for Liverpool earned the Reds a point in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Blackburn at Anfield.

Bellamy, captain of his country, scored his first Wales goal for 20 months in midweek, and followed that up with a face-saving equaliser against the club he left in the summer to move to Anfield.

Blackburn more than deserved their point and led at the break through Benni McCarthy, who swept home a fine cross from David Bentley.

Liverpool toiled away without much cohesion or confidence, and boss Rafael Benitez will hope to have some of his injured stars back for the midweek Champions League trip to Bordeaux.

The Anfield chief was without Mohamed Sissoko and Dirk Kuyt, both injured playing for their countries, and that saw a recall for Fabio Aurelio and Peter Crouch.

Blackburn keeper Brad Friedel had recovered from a groin problem to keep his place.

Early chances went begging, first when Friedel failed to gather a John Arne Riise long throw, and a surprised Crouch failed to connect in the six-yard box. Then from Jermaine Pennant's chip, Steven Gerrard saw a header sail wide.

Rovers survived thanks to Lucas Neill's goalline clearance from a Crouch shot, Friedel having only palmed away a Riise drive. Crouch was then unable to get enough power behind a 12-yard shot.

Blackburn were looking to Bentley and he responded with an excellent delivery of deep, angled balls into the box.

A couple had previously had caused uncertainty in Liverpool's defence, and when he produced another on 17 minutes, it fell perfectly for the unmarked McCarthy to drive past Jose Reina.

On 28 minutes Bentley was booked for catching Riise in full flow down the left, but Liverpool were not creating anything. The movement and control had gone from their game.

Gerrard, playing in the central midfield role he is constantly denied by club and country, found space to curl in a 20-yard shot that Friedel dived to touch away to his left.

Friedel needed lengthy treatment after that, and a change of shirt, but was able to continue. Neill was booked for a string of fouls on Pennant.

A half-time change saw Riise moved to left midfield and Aurelio to left back, while within seven minutes Luis Garcia was on in place of Pennant.

Neill had Reina scurrying across his goal chasing a 30-yard shot that went wide, before Robbie Savage was booked for a foul on Gerrard. Still Liverpool were not testing Friedel.

Even when Crouch headed down for Luis Garcia, the Spaniard failed to connect on the far post, while Riise drove wide after a Steve Finnan cross had eluded Crouch and Bellamy.

But on 64 minutes Bellamy did connect. Aurelio's corner sailed into the box and the striker nodded home from six yards - his first league goal for the club, following on from his first Wales goal for 20 months.

At last Liverpool came to life. Riise failed by inches with a cross-shot as the pressure increased on the Rovers defence, with Gerrard turning on the edge of the box to send a screamer into the Kop.

Liverpool's ideas petered out and Blackburn could have stolen it. Sami Hyypia was booked for tripping Savage when the Welshman was charging through after winning possession, and he took the free-kick himself, curling the effort just over from 25 yards.

Then Blackburn almost scored when Hyypia failed to clear and Bentley found a yard of space but still could not beat Reina from eight yards.

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Thor Zakariassen ©