After The Match 


Liverpool-Aston Villa 2-1 (2-0)       Sun May 15.           Premier League
Goals: Cisse (20 pen, 27)                 Barry (67)
Team: Carson, Josemi, Carragher, Pellegrino, Warnock, Riise, Alonso, Biscan, Nunez, Kewell, Cisse
Subs: Baros (Kewell 60), Hamann (Biscan 70), Finnan (Nunez 79)
Not used: Dudek, Hyypia
Yellow: None
Red: None
Referee: B Knight
Attendance: 43,406

TABLE                       MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 7-4
Shots off target: 8-9
Fouls conceded: 10-16
Corners: 9-5
Yellow: 0-0




HEADLINES "I'm 70 or 80
percent fit."

         Djibril Cisse

1605: Rebuilding needed but Reds are smiling...
1505: Benitez backs Cisse
1505: Cisse back to sink Villa


MAY 16
Rebuilding needed but Reds are smiling again

Analysis by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

Gerard Houllier joined last season's farewell lap of Anfield in charge of a team two points - and more crucially one league place - better off than this season's.

He was sacked a week later. But the mood at Anfield yesterday was of optimism, not under-achievement; of progress, not of regression and regret.

Amazing, the difference a Champions League Final can make.

Rafael Benitez sent out eight players at Anfield who will arguably get no further than the substitutes' bench in Istanbul next week - but that can still be a pretty powerful motivational tool.

Djibril Cisse absolutely insisted on taking a 17th minute penalty, ten minutes later Josemi was seen careering down the right flank like some kind of latter-day Carlos Alberto - and Harry Kewell very nearly broke into a sweat. Well, it was a warm May afternoon.

The closing Premiership match of Benitez's first Anfield season was all about the future - both the short and long term.

Short term, Cisse couldn't have done much more to demand inclusion from the start against Milan than score twice in his first start since October.

His searing pace and greater aware-ness of the movement of players around him also gave cause for Milan Baros to shift uneasily in his seat in the dug-out.

Long-term, however, the shaky way in which an ordinary Aston Villa side were let back into a match that had looked over after half an hour underlined the rebuilding work which is still necessary.

Liverpool's first choice XI is impressive. But scratch beneath the surface and there is not much to enthuse about.

Liverpool ended their Premiership campaign with a 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa. The same Aston Villa side which finished nine points down on last season's total and were humiliated 5-1 at Tottenham recently. Yet who, according to their oily manager, have "over-achieved" this season..

The unconvincing 2-1 win simply meant Liverpool have trod water in the Premiership this season. But foundations have been laid, achievements in Europe have pointed at more to come - and players of the quality of Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia have joined the foundation stones of the club who were already there, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

Of that quartet, only Alonso and Carragher started yesterday's game - an end of season canter which rarely threatened to catch fire.

There were still some moments of interest, mind.

One of those curious football-ground rumours swept the stadium before the game - a suggestion that the wholescale team changes meant that skipper-forthe-day Jamie Carragher was also on penalties.

Odds of 20/1 for a player who last scored a goal when the Tories were in power, did little to diminish the notion . . . which is presupposing that the bookies weren't responsible for starting the rumour in the first place, of course!

Of course, when Cisse was sent tumbling in the penalty area with the game barely 17 minutes old, Carragher stayed rooted to the halfway line while Cisse demanded the penalty-taking responsibility.

Which shifted all of the focus onto the young Frenchman. He finished confidently - "he shot properly" said Benitez afterwards - and the manner in which he drove Josemi's pull-back past Thomas Sorensen showed his rehabilitation is almost complete. A couple of halfway line sprints also suggested his pace could be a more potent threat against the ageing Stam, Maldini and company than Baros' bumper-car front-running antics.

Benitez was predictably deadpan afterwards.

"We now have two options rather than one," was as far as he could be pushed afterwards on his forward planning for Istanbul. His forward planning for next season, however, will be undoubtedly more complex.

Liverpool came a Luke Moore header against the crossbar away from finishing below Bolton in sixth - and losing another 500,000 in Premiership place money. But the Reds hung on, and can look forward with some optimism to the future.

They will be underdogs in nine days' time with nothing to lose.

Then they can prepare for next season under a manager who has learned an enormous amount about his club and his squad - in what is effectively still his settling- in season.

Anfield was in end of season mood yesterday. The over-riding sensation is that this is just the start of something. Like the song says, he's only just begun.

MAY 15
Benitez backs Cisse

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez was delighted to see Djibril Cisse back on the scoresheet against Aston Villa.

French marksman Cisse bagged his first goals since breaking his leg in October as he scored twice in Liverpool's 2-1 win over Villa at Anfield.

Cisse's return to fitness has been remarkable considering the extent of his injury, but he looked sharp in The Reds' final Premiership game of the season.

Benitez says that it was good to see Cisse back in the goals, giving him a good selection problem ahead of the UEFA Champions League final.

"Cisse scored two goals and he ran quick and hard all game," said Benitez.

"Maybe he needs to play more games but we have ten more days left until the final and he will be fitter and better by then.

"Now we have two options in attack and it will be better for me and better for the team.

"We now have to decide which one we use, or if we use both."

Benitez was delighted with the send-off the Anfield crowd gave his troops as they prepare to take on Milan in Istanbul.

"We have won, and we have seen we have the best supporters in England and we are happy," added Benitez. "When you see them at the end of the game it was fantastic.

"We know it will be a fantastic and important day for us in Istanbul. But we need to work hard and concentrate in training before then so we can have a good game.

"We are confident, it is only one game and anything can happen, but all the team are confident."

Cisse says he always knew he could get back to scoring goals before the end of the season despite his injury.

"For me it was really important to score before the end of the season," said Cisse.

"All the work I have done while I was injured has paid off. The goal was not for me but for all the fans who have supported me and the medical staff.

"I'm really strong mentally and I knew I'd be back scoring this season.

"I think it's good to finish with three points.

"I'm 70 or 80 percent fit, maybe I will play in Istanbul but it's not up to me.

"I'm just happy because it is a miracle to be out there scoring goals."

MAY 15
Cisse back to sink Villa

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Liverpool signed off for the Premiership season with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Anfield, with Djibril Cisse returning to goalscoring form by grabbing a brace.

Rafa Benitez made several changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Villa with their UEFA Champions League final against Milan in mind.

Liverpool, and indeed the home crowd, did seem to have their minds on Istanbul at times at Anfield, but Cisse was a man with this game at the front of his thinking.

The former Auxerre attacker has made a remarkable recovery from a broken leg to be in contention for a starting place in Turkey, and he was looking to give Benitez a selection headache for the final.

Cisse's pace made the penalty from which he himself scored to open the scoring, while he showed clinical finishing to double the advantage.

Gareth Barry got Villa back into it in a second half they had by far the better of, but Liverpool hung on to give their fans a home win to celebrate in the warm-up for the big one.

Scott Carson was tested early by a Lee Hendrie shot, in what was an understandably quiet opening to a game which had little resting on it.

Skipper for the day Jamie Carragher was still giving it 100 percent, however, but his talents were seen going forward with a mazy dribble into the box which nearly saw him break his long goalscoring duck when firing into the side netting.

The Reds took the lead on 20 minutes when Harry Kewell's shot was palmed away by Thomas Sorensen. Cisse followed up and Mark Delany brought him down for a penalty.

French marksman Cisse stepped and slotted home the penalty to grab his first goal since September after his long injury lay-off.

Antonio Nunez shot just wide before Mauricio Pellegrino had a clever back-heel from four yards out well saved by Sorensen.

Cisse grabbed his, and Liverpool's second on 27 minutes when Nunez and the returning Josemi combined down the right before cutting back for Cisse to clinically fire home.

Kewell had a good chance to make it three six minutes before the break when he raced towards the box, before cutting back onto his left foot and curling a shot just wide.

Villa improved after the break and, after exerting pressure on a rather subdued Liverpool side, they grabbed a goal back courtesy of Barry.

The Villa skipper sneaked in at the far post to convert from Nolberto Solano's nod down to deservedly get the visitors back into the game.

Solano then fired a free kick just over, while substitute Luke Moore nipped in at the near post but sent his effort just wide.

Cisse was still searching for a hat-trick, and Sorensen had to dive full-length to keep up his low shot, before John Arne Riise smacked the top of the crossbar with a typically thunderous effort from 25 yards.

Moore then headed on to the bar as Villa searched for a leveller, but it was not to be and Liverpool ended their domestic season with a home win.

backbutton.gif (1697 bytes)

Thor Zakariassen