Mascherano: We are cursed
By James Riach - Sky Sports
Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano
thinks his team are cursed following their draw against
Stoke on Saturday.
The Reds were undone by a late equaliser from Robert Huth at
the Britannia Stadium, having taken the lead through Greek
defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos in the 57th minute.
In a week when they also crashed out of the FA Cup after a
home defeat to Reading, Mascherano is beginning to feel like
there is a spell on the Anfield club.
"It seems like we are cursed in terms of injuries and
letting in incredible goals in the last minutes of games,"
he said in The People.
"The situation is enough to get anyone down, but this team
is going to keep going forward because of the spirit and
history of the club.
"It is normal that we are being criticised - we are all to
blame for going out of the Champions League and FA Cup."
Manager Rafa Benitez has come under severe pressure
following a dreadful season for the Reds, which has already
seen them slip out of the title race in the Premier League.
However, Argentina international Mascherano says the whole
team must take collective responsibility for their bad form
"We share the credit when things go well and the blame when
things go badly," he added.
"Rafa has a difficult job because this season key players
are getting injured, which would upset the plans of any
"Torres (Fernando) and Gerrard (Steven) are fundamental for
us and any team would miss them.
"It is true we are not in certain competitions now but there
are still things to resolve.
"Being champions of the first Europa League sounds good and
getting into the top four after all the problems we have
had, anyone of us would sign up for that now.
"They are the objectives and nobody is going to drop their
guard, because it is impossible to do so with our manager.
"We have to sort out the problems and win. For once, I'd
prefer to get the points over the level of our performance."
Beardsley backing for Benitez
Former Anfield star Peter Beardsley
believes Liverpool should stick by under-pressure manager
And he insists the Spanish boss, who has signed more than
100 players in his five years on Merseyside, is the best man
for the job even if Liverpool do not finish in the top four
at the end of the season.
Beardsley puts most of Liverpool's woes this season down to
injuries to their most influential players, Fernando Torres
and Steven Gerrard.
Beardsley said: "He's (Benitez) signed a lot of players but
look at most teams in the world. If they lost their stars
then they would struggle. If you lost Rooney out of
Manchester United's team they would struggle.
"The criticism is a bit over the top. I would definitely
stick with him. What have they got to lose? It's only going
to be the same players I would imagine for whoever takes
over anyway. I would give him to the summer definitely and
beyond then because he has done a brilliant job at
"They were really close last season to winning the league.
When you look at the Premier League as a whole this season
most of the top teams have lost three, four or five games
which is unusual.
"He has got the respect of the players. In the main, most of
the fans want him to stay."
If the board decide Benitez, whose side drew at Stoke on
Saturday after exiting the FA Cup against Reading in
midweek, should lose his job, however, Beardsley believes
Kop legend Kenny Dalglish would be the perfect man to take
Dalglish currently is working with the academy and
Beardsley, speaking on Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme,
said: "If they were to make a change that would be the
perfect change. He (Dalglish) knows the club inside out. He
and Sammy Lee get on like a house on fire so there wouldn't
need to be wholesale changes. But at the moment I wouldn't
Beardsley also believes there is no chance Gerrard, who was
on the brink of joining Chelsea in 2005, will leave his
He said: "When he turned down the Chelsea thing I think he
committed himself to Liverpool for life and I genuinely
believe he'll be there for life."
Rafa should go
By Chris Burton - Sky Sports
Danny Murphy feels Liverpool have gone
backwards under Rafa Benitez since he left the club in 2004.
The experienced midfielder, who is now on the books of
Fulham, believes the time has come for sweeping changes to
be made at Anfield if they are to set out on the road to
The 32-year-old playmaker is of the opinion that in order
for progress to be made, Benitez needs to be shown the door
and a new manager brought in to help steady the ship.
With pressure mounting on the Spaniard with each passing
game, it may only be a matter of time before Murphy's
beliefs are shared by the Liverpool board.
A disastrous 2009/10 has underlined just how far away the
club are from being regular contenders for major trophies,
and much of the blame for their ongoing failings has been
laid at Benitez's door.
"If you ask me has the time for Liverpool come to look for a
new manager then I have to say 'yes'," Murphy told the News
of the World.
"That is not me slating the guy because he forced me out
when I didn't want to leave the club in the first place.
Neither am I saying he is a bad manager. But over the last
year or so the club have not moved forwards, in fact they
are going backwards.
"I will always be a fan. I keep in touch with a lot of
people close to the club and many think the time has come
for a new manager. I agree providing that process doesn't
cripple the club financially in terms of pay-offs."
He added: "Liverpool's problems at the moment are not just
about some of the bad buys they have made for a lot of money
over the last few years, but also the mistakes they've made
in letting players go.
"I am not thinking of an obvious one like (Xabi) Alonso, but
why on earth did Benitez sell players like Peter Crouch and
Craig Bellamy when they are so reliant on Fernando Torres?
"It goes without saying the team have ended up relying too
much on Torres, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
"Over the past two years Benitez has made too many bad
decisions. History says he has won the Champions League and
the FA Cup for Liverpool, although even then people can
argue about the merit of those wins.
"What I do know is that after being there for this length of
time the debate should no longer be about Liverpool
qualifying for the Champions League or where they finish in
the league but actually winning the title. And that's not
going to happen again this season. So something has to
"People go on about how well Liverpool did last season by
finishing runners up? So what? We finished second under
Gerard Houllier with 80 odd points. Our team also won three
big trophies in one season. So things haven't really got
much better. If anything they have got worse."
Dirk: It feels like a defeat
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Dirk Kuyt reflected on Liverpool's last-gasp
heartbreak at Stoke and admitted: "It feels like a defeat."
The Reds appeared to have returned to winning ways after
Sotirios Kyrgiakos poked home his first goal for the club
shortly before the hour mark at the Britannia Stadium.
But the home side secured a point in the final minute when
Robert Huth turned the ball into the net from inside the six
yard area after Liverpool failed to clear a corner kick.
Kuyt had a golden chance to win it for the Reds in the 95th
minute but headed against the bar from close range.
"It feels like a defeat," said the Dutchman. "We didn't play
our best football but we were fighting for the right result
and to concede in the last minute and then miss that chance
at the end is unbelievable.
"We are angry we gave a goal away and didn't win the game.
We are really disappointed.
"Confidence is not very high at the moment but we have to
keep going, work really, really hard and come out of this as
soon as possible."
feels Reds were robbed
By Chris Burton - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez felt Liverpool were given a
rough ride by the match officials during their 1-1 draw with
The Reds were desperate to take maximum points from their
trip to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, having crashed
out of the FA Cup to Reading in midweek.
Their season now rests on their ability to secure a top four
finish in the Premier League, and they know they cannot
afford to drop points unnecessarily.
Liverpool appeared destined to ease the pressure on their
under-fire boss against the Potters, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos
bundling them in front early in the second half.
However, a late leveller from Robert Huth, and a costly miss
from Dirk Kuyt in the dying seconds, meant Benitez was
forced to settle for a point at the final whistle.
"I think that it was a difficult game. We showed great
character," the Spaniard told Sky Sports.
"The players were fantastic, you could see the fans were
really happy with their efforts.
"Two or three incidents could have changed everything, so
27,000 people in the stadium saw the incidents and three
people in the stadium didn't."
The incidents Benitez refers to concern two penalty shouts
from Liverpool which fell on deaf ears.
Lucas Leiva appeared to have been tripped by Danny
Higginbotham during a turgid first half, while the Reds also
felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick following the
dramatic events which saw Kuyt hit the woodwork with the
last kick of the game.
Benitez fended off all questions about the appeals after the
game, but was clearly frustrated that both decisions went
against his side.
"I will not talk about the incidents. They were so clear,"
"I think we had chances in a very difficult game, against a
very difficult team. It is not easy, they are very physical.
"We have five key players who were not here, so we are
really pleased with the attitude and character from our
"Everyone was very disappointed, because we were very close,
but you have to say congratulations in terms of the effort."
Benitez also hailed those supporters who made the trip to
Stoke and showed their support for their manager throughout
the 90 minutes.
"The fans know this is a bad moment but they know the way to
change things is to support the team," he added.
Potters pile pressure on Rafa
Liverpool's miserable week continued at
Stoke as Robert Huth snatched a late equaliser in a 1-1
A tame encounter at the Britannia Stadium saw the Reds offer
a lacklustre response to their midweek cup exit to Reading,
and Sotirios Kyrgiakos' opener never really looked like
being enough to settle their nerves.
Benitez, wary of the axe edging towards his neck, set out
with defence at the forefront of his mind, while Stoke's
starting XI was littered with combative talent.
That did little to help the entertainment value, with the
first half devoid of attacking endeavour.
Lucas felt he was deserving of a penalty after tumbling
under a challenge from Danny Higginbotham, but all he got
for his troubles was a yellow card as both sides struggled
to create openings in the final third.
The second period also started in cagey fashion, with the
desire to avoid defeat outweighing the drive to secure a
Liverpool, though, edged ahead after 57 minutes when Thomas
Sorensen failed to deal with a Fabio Aurelio free-kick from
the right and Kyrgiakos bundled the ball into the back of
the net from close range.
It would not be enough, as Higginbotham towered above the
Reds' defence to nod a floated corner back across goal in
the last minute of normal time and Huth was on hand to poke
Dirk Kuyt should have won the game for the visitors with
virtually the last touch of the game, but he somehow hit the
woodwork when presented with a free header six yards out.
This game was all about Benitez's future. His club are at an
all-time low and the vultures are demanding his head.
Liverpool needed to do something to arrest an alarming
plunge in form, with the manager and the club's status on
Stoke fans were holding up giant P45s aimed at Benitez as
this crucial game started, with Liverpool's fans belting out
'You'll Never Walk Alone' in open defiance of the position
their team have got themselves into.
But Liverpool are a nerve-racked team these days, and that
showed when Aurelio had the chance to send Javier Mascherano
away on his own but tried a ridiculous 40-yard attempt to
expose an out-of-position Sorensen that sailed miles wide.
Liverpool struggled against Rory Delap's long throws from
the start, Jose Reina failing to get a positive punch on
them, while at the other end the raw David Ngog was being
left on his own in an uneven battle with Stoke's giant
Lucas had two efforts blocked from the edge of the box, but
too much of Liverpool's possession was wasted with woeful
Stoke, though, always looked dangerous when the ball was in
the air, or at Tuncay's feet.
Stoke lost Delap with a groin strain, Liam Lawrence
sprinting into the action, and a minute later Abdoulaye Faye
also went off with a recurrence of a back problem to be
replaced by Andy Wilkinson.
The half's only real flashpoint came when Liverpool had
Lucas booked by referee Lee Mason for diving in the box,
although replays suggested he was caught by Higginbotham's
But without their star men, and way short on confidence,
Liverpool's attempts to play a passing game constantly
disintegrated against a combative Stoke.
The Potters' renowned long ball game is always likely to be
successful against any team in such a state and Liverpool
constantly looked stretched under the barrage.
Stoke started the second period intent on taking control,
and Lawrence saw a 20-yard free-kick deflected wide.
But then Liverpool took a leaf from Stoke's book, going
ahead from a free-kick after 57 minutes.
Aurelio curled the ball towards the near post and Sorensen
did not gather cleanly under pressure from Kyrgiakos, the
Greek defender getting the final touch on the line to score
his first goal for the club.
Stoke responded when Tuncay nodded over after Ryan Shawcross
flicked on a Salif Diao throw.
Stoke replaced Mamady Sidibe with Ricardo Fuller after 66
minutes to freshen up their attack.
Diao was booked for dissent before Fuller tested Reina with
a flicked header at the near post after 75 minutes.
Liverpool then sent on new boy Maxi Rodriguez for his first
taste of English football after 78 minutes in place of
Stoke hurled their big men forward for every corner and
Liverpool were forced into desperate defence at times, with
Martin Skrtel and Kyrgiakos giving everything.
Liverpool brought on Alberto Aquilani for Ngog after 87
minutes, Stoke piling on the pressure now with constant,
And eventually Liverpool cracked. Matthew Etherington's
corner was headed back across goal in the 89th minute for
Huth to score from close range.
Reina was booked for time wasting but Kuyt's near miss
almost provided a final dramatic twist in injury time.