After The Match 


Stoke-Liverpool 1-1 (0-0)       16.1.10                                 PL
Goals: Kyrgiakos (57)                           Huth (90)
Team: Reina, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Insua, Degen, Lucas, Mascherano, Aurelio, Kuyt, Ngog
Subs: Rodriguez (Degen 78), Aquilani (Ngog 88)
Not used: Cavalieri, Riera, Spearing, Darby, Pacheco
Yellow: Lucas (25), Reina (90+4)            Diao (74)
Red: None
Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 27,247
Shots on target: 2-1
Shots off target: 3-5
Blocked shots: 4-2
Fouls conceded: 13-12
Corners: 10-0
Offsides: 0-1
Possession: 44.3-55.7
Yellow: 1-2

angry we
gave a goal away..."

Dirk Kuyt
1701: Mascherano: We are cursed
1701: Beardsley backing for Benitez
1701: Murphy: Rafa should go
1601: Dirk: It feels like a defeat
1601: Rafa feels Reds were robbed
1601: Potters pile pressure on Rafa 

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 of late.

"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 coach.

"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 Rafael Benitez.

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 Liverpool.

"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 over.

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 do anything."

Beardsley also believes there is no chance Gerrard, who was on the brink of joining Chelsea in 2005, will leave his hometown club.

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."

Murphy: 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 recovery.

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 change.

"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."

Rafa 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 Stoke.

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," he said.

"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 players.

"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

Sky Sports

Liverpool's miserable week continued at Stoke as Robert Huth snatched a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

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 win.

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 home.

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 the line.

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 defenders.

Lucas had two efforts blocked from the edge of the box, but too much of Liverpool's possession was wasted with woeful passing.

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 challenge.

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 Philipp Degen.

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, dangerous set-plays.

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.

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Thor Zakariassen