After The Match 


Liverpool-Portsmouth 4-1 (3-0)        15.3.10                        PL
Goals: Torres (26, 77), Babel (28), Aquilani (32)       Belhadj (88)
Team: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Mascherano, Aquilani, Gerrard, Babel, Rodriguez, Torres
Subs: Kelly (Johnson 70), Benayoun (Gerrard 74),
Ngog (Torres 80)
Not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Kuyt, Lucas
Yellow: Mokoena (77), Dindane (77)
Red: None
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Attendance: 40,316
Shots on target: 9-3
Shots off target: 10-6
Blocked shots: 6-0
Fouls conceded: 10-16
Corners: 8-4
Offsides: 0-1
Possession: 64.5-35.5
Yellow: 0-2

HEADLINES " I want to go forward here at Liverpool..."
Ryan Babel
1703: Going on the attack with
          Aquilani paid off for Benitez

1603: FA take no action against Gerrard
1603: Babel wants Anfield stay
1603: Eye-catching Liverpool FC display
          raises Anfield spirits against Portsmouth

1603: Rafa sure Gerrard will escape rap
1503: Reds enjoy happy Monday

Going on the attack with
Aquilani paid off for Benitez

Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo

Monday night’s impressive demolition of Portsmouth at Anfield was the ideal start to a crucial week for Liverpool.

It was so pleasing to see us play the kind of attacking football that has been lacking in recent months.

It’s easy to dismiss it as being ‘only’ Portsmouth, but they are FA Cup semi-finalists and can be dangerous on their day as we discovered at Fratton Park back in December.

Too often this season we’ve failed to show our quality against inferior opposition but we stamped our authority on the game from the start against Avram Grant’s side.

Crucially, the tempo was fast. Our passing was a lot quicker than it has been and the movement was a lot better. That caused Portsmouth a lot of problems.

We showed a lot more going forward than we have done of late and I was really impressed with the amount of chances we created.

We scored four but with a bit more luck in front of goal we could have doubled that.

It was a vast improvement after the disappointing back-to-back defeats to Wigan and Lille.

Sometimes this season we’ve been a bit too cautious but Monday night was a return to the way we all love to see Liverpool play.

It’s a different game when you play the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea, but against other teams the onus is on Liverpool to chase the game and we did that.

It was a special night for Alberto Aquilani, who scored his first goal for the Reds in front of the Kop.

The Italian has had a tough first season with the Reds following his move from Roma, but he will be relieved to be off the mark and he deserved his goal because he performed really well.

Aquilani got his chance in place of Lucas in midfield and it worked well with Javier Mascherano alongside him.

There’s no doubt the balance of the side was right for that game.

His passing was good and he was always looking to move the ball forward when too often in recent matches it’s gone sideways.

Yes, Portsmouth gave Aquilani the space in which to play but you still have to make the most of it. His match fitness is getting better and Monday will do his confidence the world of good.

We are yet to see the best of Aquilani so let’s hope he can really push on from here and help ensure we finish the season strongly.

It’s a massive few days for the club with the game against Lille in the Europa League at Anfield tomorrow night followed by Sunday’s game at Manchester United.

They will be tougher than Portsmouth but at least we’re going into those crucial games on a high and with key players getting back to top form.

FA take no action against Gerrard


Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard will not face action from the FA following his clash with Portsmouth midfielder Michael Brown on Monday night.

It is understood the FA sought clarification from referee Stuart Attwell after Gerrard appeared to catch Brown with his forearm during the 4-1 win for Rafael Benitez's men at Anfield.

Attwell saw the incident at the time and spoke to Gerrard after awarding Pompey a free-kick, with the FA following guidelines not to punish players retrospectively if the match official sees the alleged offence.

Gerrard escaped punishment from the FA last week after apparently making a two-fingered gesture to referee Andre Marriner during Liverpool's 1-0 defeat away to Wigan.

Against Pompey, Benitez replaced his 29-year-old captain with Yossi Benayoun immediately after the incident with Brown, with victory a formality by that stage.

Victory against the Premier League's bottom side meant Liverpool bounced back from back-to-back defeats, against Wigan and Lille in the Europa League, with the return leg against the French side on Thursday.

"We knew that it was a must-win game," said goalkeeper Jose Reina.

"Fortunately we did it and performed really well. Hopefully we can do it again on Thursday.

"When the team is playing well, we can score at any time. For this 10 minutes (against Pompey), we were incredible."

Babel wants Anfield stay

By Jamie Casey - Sky Sports

Liverpool winger Ryan Babel is delighted to have earned a run in the side and insists his future belongs at Anfield.

Babel scored in the Reds' 4-1 win over Portsmouth on Monday night in what was his fourth start in six consecutive games in Rafa Benitez's side.

After early promise in a Reds shirt following his arrival from Ajax in 2007, the Dutchman has struggled to establish himself at Anfield since last season.

Speculation linking the 23-year-old with a return to his homeland mounts each transfer window, but Babel now has fresh hopes of a bright future at Liverpool.

"I was always happy at Liverpool," Babel told the club's official website.

"Slowly I'm feeling stronger. Hopefully now I can continue to get stronger. With every game you'll start to see the best of me.

"Obviously you're always frustrated when you can't show people what you can do - but that's not just me, that's every player.

"But that's the past and now I want to go forward here at Liverpool," added Babel, who has scored twice since his recent return to Benitez's first team.

The comfortable Anfield win over Pompey was the perfect response to back-to-back 1-0 defeats away from home to Wigan and French side Lille respectively.

Babel believes an early breakthrough against Avram Grant's side was key to their comfort, and he is hoping the Reds can take confidence from their performance into their next two games against Lille and Manchester United.

"These three points are very important but now this passion and the way we played in defence and attack is the basis of how we have to play in the remaining games," added Babel.

"I think we had a point to prove in terms of getting a result. I don't think the performance at Lille was as bad as some people think but here we definitely showed character and passion, and hopefully we can now look forward.

"If you can score an early goal then the confidence raises straight away. Then when a second comes everyone in the team feels confident and can play in a more relaxed way.

"It would definitely be nice to win at Old Trafford like last year but, first of all, hopefully Thursday will be good and then we'll go to Old Trafford full of confidence."

Eye-catching Liverpool FC display
raises Anfield spirits against Portsmouth

Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo

Before a sombre mood was lifted by one of the outstanding performances of the season, a banner in the Anfield Road said it all.

Held between an obliging visiting fan and a concerned local in the home section, the message was simple.

‘Leeds Pompey Liverpool?’

The question mark provided a teaser for Reds supporters that doesn’t bear thinking about.

At the other end of the ground another one read ‘Liverpool FC Built by Shanks Broke by Yanks’.

The warnings took on extra meaning as the financially stricken Pompey limped into town.

If the result wasn’t so important for Liverpool last night, it would have been easy to get immersed in the gloom that has enveloped Portsmouth.

After becoming the first Premier League club to enter administration, a nine-point deduction now hangs precariously over them.

With most of their crown jewels auctioned off to the highest bidders, reality hit home with the loss of 85 jobs at the club this week.

Compared to Portsmouth, Liverpool’s ills are superficial.

But like any ailment that goes unchecked for too long, the threat of what some deem as potentially terminal continues to lurk in the background.

While Liverpool and Portsmouth are two very different animals, the mismanagement at Fratton Park should provide a watershed for those living beyond their means.

Three years ago it was inconceivable for a club of Liverpool’s heritage and stature to go the same way.

But that was under another regime in what now appears an age of innocence.

News of interest from US private equity firm, Rhone Group, this week will be welcomed by those handing out the ‘Debt Lies & Cowboys’ leaflets around the ground before kick-off.

Liverpool are likely to attract the kind of investment Portsmouth can only dream of.

With debts getting on for four times the amount that is threatening to send the south coast club under, it’s a good job.

Top-flight football, we are told, is now all about the brand. Despite a season that has gone from bad to worse, Liverpool’s appeal is still up there with the best, although a lowest league gate at Anfield for five years hinted at shifting sands last night.

A change of time and date for, what else, but TV had its part to play, as have recent performances.

But if Liverpool can start to reproduce with any regularity the kind of eye-catching football that rendered this game over as a contest before half-time, the 4,000 or so empty seats will prove only a temporary setback.

If Rafa Benitez didn’t quite get the response requested in Lille following the debacle that was Wigan a week earlier, he got it against Portsmouth.

Some will attribute the free-flowing football to the inclusion of Alberto Aquilani from the start.

Others may point to Fernando Torres’ best performance for some time.

While Aquilani finally showed more than just glimpses of why Benitez made such a sizeable outlay on him last summer, Torres was involved in each of Liverpool’s four goals.

Gone was the frustration on show in recent games, a sight almost as pleasing as the Spaniard finding the back of the net again.

Of course, you can only beat what is put in front of you and Portsmouth were poor. How they beat Liverpool in December is a mystery.

But such has been the nature of this season that you could say the same for most of the Reds’ nine league defeats.

Where Liverpool have been woefully short of the standards set at this stage last year when the prospect of a first league title in 19 years was still in the offing, last night should be used to draw a line drawn in the sand.

The win edged Liverpool a point ahead of Manchester City into fifth place, albeit having played two more games than the Premier League’s newest billionaires.

That leaves the Reds with eight more matches to try and beat off competition from City, Tottenham and Aston Villa for the fourth and final Champions League place.

After being given no hope at all after the 1-0 defeat at the DW Stadium seven days earlier, the demolition of Portsmouth suggests there is fight in the old dog yet.

What a difference a week makes.

Rafa sure Gerrard will escape rap


Rafael Benitez is confident Steven Gerrard will escape retrospective action for a clash with Michael Brown in Liverpool's win over Portsmouth.

Fernando Torres scored his 14th and 15th goals in the Premier League this season with Ryan Babel and Alberto Aquilani - registering his first goal for the Reds - also on target before Nadir Belhadj's late consolation.

The 4-1 victory at Anfield was overshadowed slightly by Gerrard's apparent forearm to the back of Brown's neck in the second half, after which the Liverpool captain was immediately substituted by Reds boss Benitez.

"I don't think so," said the Spaniard when asked if he was worried about retrospective action against his captain.

"I haven't seen it but I was asking and I think it was nothing."

Benitez also played down the immediate substitution of Gerrard, adding: "We were thinking of changing Torres, Glen Johnson and Gerrard and we did it."

Only a week ago Gerrard found himself in a similar situation for an alleged v-sign made at referee Andre Marriner in the defeat at Wigan.

That went no further as the official said he had seen the incident at the time and decided it did not warrant any action.

On Monday night, referee Stuart Attwell was very close to the incident but took no action but it remains to be seen whether he will be asked to look at it again by the Football Association.

Portsmouth manager Avram Grant said he also did not see the incident but felt Attwell should have spotted it.

"I didn't see it. I will speak with Michael Brown and then I will tell you," he said.

"They told me the referee was four metres away from this so I think the referee needs to see from four metres what I didn't from 40 metres," he said.

"Personally I like Steven Gerrard. I think he is a good player and a fair player."

Benitez was more happy to talk about his team's performance.

"It was a good game. We were trying to play well for the fans and score goals," he added. "It was an important goal in an important week.

"It was really good for Aquilani and really good for the team. He has shown he has quality and he will have more confidence and that is good.

"We have seen a lot of players playing well and that is good for me because it gives me more (selection) problems."

Grant refused to lay the blame on goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, whose clearance straight to Gerrard set up Torres' first goal.

"Jamie is a good goalkeeper. I will not speak about mistakes because it is part of the game," he added.

"We started the game okay, we played how we wanted to play and then came the first goal and we lost our shape and they scored a second and third goal in seven minutes and the game was finished."

Reds enjoy happy Monday

Sky Sports

Liverpool turned a potential blue Monday into a happy Monday as they swept Portsmouth aside 4-1 to ease the woes at Anfield.

The Reds suffered Monday misery at Wigan seven days ago but began a big week well with a comprehensive win over Pompey.

Monday night football has rarely suited Liverpool - they had not opened the week with a win in their last nine attempts - but they were seldom threatened by the Premier League's basement boys.

Three goals in six first-half minutes - one each for Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel to go with Alberto Aquilani's first strike in English football - killed the game as a contest and turned the second period into a virtual training exercise for the home side.

Torres netted his second after 77 minutes as Liverpool peppered Jamie Ashdown's goal before Nadir Belhadj bagged a late consolation the visitors scarcely deserved.

Torres and Steven Gerrard were both substituted late on with matches against Lille and Manchester United to come in the next week, the Liverpool skipper going off just moments after appearing to throw an arm at opposite number Michael Brown.

But Liverpool fans may prefer to dwell on the performance of Aquilani who finally found a performance to justify his £17million price tag.

The summer signing, brought in after Xabi Alonso's sale to Real Madrid, has struggled to adapt to life in England but was at the heart of everything in only his fifth Barclays Premier League start.

After the defeat at Wigan, the Reds needed a positive start and the intent was apparent from the off as Torres' run towards the penalty area inside the first minute was halted only by Marc Wilson's tug.

Having cranked up the pressure against the massed ranks of Portsmouth's defence - with Torres and Gerrard both having penalty shouts turned down - Liverpool eventually made the breakthrough they were so desperate for in the 26th minute.

It was with more than a slice of good fortune, however, and came courtesy of goalkeeper Ashdown, making only his fourth appearance this season because of David James' calf injury.

Ashdown drilled Ricardo Rocha's back-pass straight at Gerrard and the ball dropped to Maxi Rodriguez, who squared for Torres to roll a shot into the empty net.

Two minutes later Glen Johnson's cross to the far post dropped to Torres, who turned former Liverpool defender Steve Finnan before slipping a pass inside for Babel to poke home.

In the 32nd minute the goal that all Anfield - and Aquilani - had hoped for came when Gerrard played in Torres, who crossed back for his captain to dummy and allow his team-mate to fire home in front of the Kop.

Torres could have made it 4-0 in the 35th minute when he cut in from the left to curl a right-foot shot beyond Ashdown only to see it rebound back off the post. Gerrard fired wide from Johnson's return ball.

Portsmouth were slow to return for the second half and it was perhaps understandable as the barrage continued almost immediately.

In probably the best move of the match, the ball was worked in from the right starting with Rodriguez and going through Torres, Aquilani, Babel, and Aquilani again before Gerrard's shot at the far post was charged down by Ashdown.

From the same move the Portsmouth goalkeeper's fingertip save then tipped Babel's shot onto the crossbar and over.

Portsmouth threatened in the 55th minute when Brown's shot was instinctively touched over by Jose Reina.

But it was only a brief respite as Rodriguez fired wide and Johnson should have had a penalty when Belhadj brought down the England international.

Gerrard departed in the 74th minute, having just been involved in a clash with Brown in which the Reds captain appeared to thrust an arm across his opponent's face, as Yossi Benayoun came on.

Aquilani's dream night continued in the 77th minute when he threaded a pass to Torres in the penalty area and he cut back onto his right foot to blast a shot inside the near post.

The Spaniard, who has now scored 15 Premier League goals to beat his tally of last season, was immediately replaced by David Ngog.

Torres, who looks to be returning to his lethal best having been sidelined for five weeks after a knee operation, left to a standing ovation.

Even a late goal from Belhadj, sidefooting in Frederic Piquionne's volley across goal, could not spoil a straightforward night for the hosts.

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