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
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
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
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
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
Steven Gerrard was back in his favoured centre stage against
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
This time he had John Arne Riise behind him, rather than
Mark Gonzalez in front, but the end product was pretty much
David Bentley delivered crosses from deep 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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."
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
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
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
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.