Hansen: Spurs looked more like
title contenders than Liverpool
Anfield legend Alan Hansen has slammed
Liverpool’s performance against Tottenham, claiming it was
the North London club who looked more like title contenders
then their Merseyside opposition.
The former Liverpool stalwart admitted the club’s next few
games took on added significance now, but he still backed
Rafa Benitez’s side to pip Manchester United and Chelsea to
Hansen told the Daily Telegraph: “Spurs looked more like
title contenders than Liverpool.”
“I cannot believe how bad Liverpool were, particularly in
the first half.”
“There were no positives whatsoever from a Liverpool
“They were poor defensively, the passing in midfield wasn't
up to scratch and Fernando Torres looked tired up front. He
looked out of sorts and as though he has had too much
football, which doesn't augur well.”
“You can't win the title in the first six weeks of the
season, but you can certainly lose it in the first six
“Liverpool are obviously not at that stage after just one
game, but they are now under pressure to get something when
they play Stoke and Aston Villa at Anfield over the next
“There is still a question mark over whether some of the
Liverpool players are good enough to help the club to the
championship. We'll have to see.”
“Liverpool have paid the price for bad starts on more than
one occasion in recent seasons, so they have to bounce back
“I still fully expect Liverpool to finish above Arsenal and
Manchester City, however.”
He concluded: “City, Arsenal, Chelsea and United have all
made winning starts and left Liverpool needing to make up
ground, but rule No 1 in any season is not to write anybody
off after the first game.”
“I am still taking Liverpool to finish above the rest and
win the title this season, but they have to improve quickly
and get back to winning ways.”
“Against Spurs, they were a million miles from the team that
went so close to winning the league last season, but they
now have to bounce back from an awful opening performance.”
back on track
By Al Campbell - LFC Online
Lucas Levia is aming to get back to
winning ways on Wednesday.
The Brazilian midfielder admits yesterday's defeat at Spurs
was disappointing and has vowed to put it behind him by
helping the Reds to a home win over Stoke on Wednesday.
"We are very disappointed. We came here looking for a good
result, but Tottenham played really well," said Lucas.
"The first half wasn't good for us and they pressed us
really hard. I think if we had kept better possession of the
ball it could have been key for us.
"We were better in the second half - we created some chances
and could have had a penalty towards the end.
"Although we are disappointed, we now have to look forward
to our next two matches at home and hope to take six points.
"We have to improve, we know that. Now we have two matches
at home and we know we have to be stronger, especially for
"We have to try and beat Stoke and afterwards we can think
about the next game with Aston Villa. We want to take six
was there for all to see
Comment by Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
When Rafael Benitez said Liverpool were
trying to manage expectations about the forthcoming season,
this probably wasn’t quite what he had in mind.
A season in which many have tipped the Anfield outfit for
the championship began in a manner that highlighted the
shortcomings they must overcome if they are to end that long
wait for the title.
This result may have been the same as last season’s visit
here, but the circumstances were entirely different.
Last November, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp
admitted his side had been “slaughtered” before snatching a
Yesterday, however, only the heroics of Pepe Reina prevented
Liverpool from being on the receiving end of a beating akin
to their Carling Cup humiliation nine months ago.
Certainly, there must be something about the White Hart Lane
air that has caused Liverpool to press the self-destruct
button in such alarming fashion in recent visits.
But the reasons for this defeat are deep-rooted, a
consequence of a summer of under-investment, significant
departures and less than ideal preparation.
The sight of Benitez turning to Andriy Voronin to help
rescue a point would have surely been a worrying sight to
supporters, no matter how well the Ukrainian fared at Hertha
Berlin last season.
As it was, Voronin should have been awarded a penalty in the
closing moments that could have earned Liverpool an
Steven Gerrard had already pulled the visitors level once
from the spot after Benoit Assou-Ekotto fired Tottenham into
a spectacular first-half lead, only for a towering Sebastien
Bassong header to win the game moments later.
But given Liverpool’s patchy pre-season form, this early
setback should not be regarded as a surprise. And that in
itself should give cause for concern.
Benitez’s side started slowly last season but at least
continued to eke out results. Now, just a weekend into the
new season, they are already playing catch-up on all their
main title rivals. Improvement must be immediate.
They have only themselves to blame. When they weren’t
running into each other, Liverpool’s defenders were too
often diving into last-ditch challenges when a touch more
poise would have sufficed, and that recklessness led to the
two free-kicks from which Tottenham ultimately scored.
Debutant Glen Johnson was a rare positive for Benitez, but
that the full-back was often Liverpool’s most attacking
outlet spoke volumes for a spluttering forward line in which
Fernando Torres was hounded out by Bassong and Ledley King.
While Johnson attracted criticism for his performance in
England’s 2-2 draw against Holland in midweek, Ryan Babel
impressed against his Anfield team-mate in Amsterdam.
It was enough to earn the Dutchman a starting role but a
dismal outing did little to strengthen his claims; his
replacement Yossi Benayoun was infinitely more effective.
After a poor second season, Babel has entered the
last-chance saloon at Liverpool and he will have to improve
on this showing, although in mitigation he isn’t the only
player for whom that applies.
With Xabi Alonso departed and new £20million signing Alberto
Aquilani sidelined until at least October, opportunity is
knocking for Lucas Leiva in central midfield.
The Brazilian often polarises opinion among the Liverpool
support, but his performances during the closing months of
the last campaign and pre-season form suggest a corner may
have been turned.
Yet no matter how tidy and busy Lucas was for the most part,
it’s clear the midfield is crying out for the composure and
creativity of an Alonso.
Concerns over Liverpool’s central defence were allayed when
both Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel were passed fit, but
that situation was threatened after 15 minutes when the duo
challenged for the same ball, leading to a sickening clash
Carragher returned after a brief trip to the dressing room
for some stitches to a cut while Skrtel soldiered on until
the 75th minute after a hefty blow to the jaw.
The collision disrupted what little rhythm Liverpool had
gathered during a pedestrian first quarter, and allowed
Tottenham to assume the initiative with only the reflexes of
Reina preventing an embarrassing half-time scoreline.
Robbie Keane, surprisingly selected ahead of fellow former
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, helped justify Benitez’s
wisdom in sending him back to London by twice spurning
chances to open the scoring.
Unmarked and six yards from goal, Keane met a Luka Modric
cross from the left with a header on the half-hour that,
even allowing for Reina’s heroics in repelling the ball, was
too close to the goalkeeper.
Keane was similarly at fault minutes later when put through
by another Modric pass, Reina flinging out a left arm to
deflect the ball to safety.
But the goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Tottenham
forging ahead a minute from the break. After Skrtel fouled
Wilson Palacios 25 yards from goal, Tom Huddlestone drove
the subsequent free-kick into the wall.
However, a fortunate ricochet off Emiliano Insua’s face
presented the ball invitingly to Assou-Ekotto, who arrowed a
venomous volley into the top corner from the edge of the
Liverpool at least showed a bit more fight in the second
half. Dirk Kuyt and Torres combined to tee up Gerrard for a
daisy-cutter that skimmed narrowly wide, but Reina had to be
alert to turn over a dipping Palacios drive.
Benitez’s side were gifted a route back into the game on 56
minutes. Johnson, again marauding down the right, did well
to work into the box after cutting between Assou-Ekotto and
Huddlestone but was going nowhere when unwisely upended by
Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Gerrard kept his nerve from the spot, but parity lasted just
three minutes thanks to another self-inflicted wound.
Carragher fouled Jermaine Defoe on the Tottenham right and,
from the resultant Modric free-kick, was beaten to the ball
by Bassong, who looped a header into the top corner.
Voronin’s late penalty shout after being bumped over by
Assou-Ekotto was too much to bear for Sammy Lee, the
Liverpool assistant manager venting his spleen at fourth
official Stuart Attwell to such an extent he was sent off by
referee Phil Dowd. The midweek visit of Stoke City has
already become a must-win for Benitez’s side.
Rafa: Shoddy work from everyone
Rafa Benitez conceded Liverpool were
disappointing at Tottenham - but he felt officials Phil Dowd
and Stuart Attwell could also do much better.
Reds boss Benitez was left less than impressed by referee
Dowd - and claimed fourth official Attwell was "too young"
after watching his side lose their opening Premier League
fixture 2-1 at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Liverpool, last season's runners-up, never really got going,
and were fortunate to go into the break only 1-0 down
following a stunning 25-yard strike from full-back Benoit
Captain Steven Gerrard equalised after 56 minutes from the
penalty spot, after £17million summer signing Glen Johnson
had been upended by Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
However, the lead did not last long as Sebastien Bassong, on
his debut following an £8million switch from Newcastle,
headed in what prove to be the winner.
Benitez, though, was more than a touch irritated when
referee Dowd did not point to the spot after substitute
Andriy Voronin appeared to be blocked by Assou-Ekotto, and
also when further appeals for a handball against the same
defender during the closing stages were dismissed.
Assistant manager Sammy Lee was eventually sent from the
dugout for taking his protests too far. Lee was particularly
vocal towards Attwell.
Benitez said: "Everybody could see there was a penalty
against Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable.
"With this referee, I knew this (another penalty) was
Asked for his overall assessment of Dowd, Benitez went to
his pocket and pulled out his glasses.
The Liverpool manager added: "We had a meeting the other
day, and they said we cannot talk about the referee as a
person or the decisions, but I think everybody today could
see the situation."
Attwell became the youngest referee in the Premier League
when he took charge of Blackburn's match against Hull in
However, the 26-year-old was at the centre of last season's
'Phantom Goal' controversy involving Reading and Watford.
Discussing Attwell, the Liverpool manager said: "The fourth
official is a young referee, and maybe he needs to calm down
"I do not know how old he is, but the fourth official is too
Benitez did accept Liverpool were just not up to their usual
high standards this afternoon as they failed to match the
opening-game wins of probable title rivals Manchester
United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
"We did not play well in the first half, but were much
better in the second, when we pushed harder and had more
options in the final third," he said.
"Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these types of
"We have to improve in the middle, keeping the ball. The
understanding has to be better.
"But it is too early, and we have another game on Wednesday
when clearly we have to improve in the possession."
Even though Gerrard was passed fit following a groin
problem, the link was poor between attack and a midfield
which is now missing Xabi Alonso after his sale to Real
"We had games without Alonso last season, and won a lot of
games, so I think we have enough quality in the squad, and
we have to prove this," insisted Benitez.
"We knew that we had to play well, but it was not because of
the pressure on us."
Benitez added: ""As a team, we were not comfortable in
possession during the first half.
"Gerrard was doing his job, but the rest of the team were
not playing well.
"Everybody has to improve.
"We have to win the next game, but for everything else, it
is too early."
Spurs cause Rafa's Reds to stall
Title hopefuls Liverpool suffered a 2-1
defeat away to Tottenham in their first game of the new
Premier League campaign on Sunday.
Reds boss Rafael Benitez had spent the summer plotting how
to overhaul champions Manchester United, having fallen just
short last season in the quest for a first title since 1990.
New arrival Glen Johnson, who cost £17million from
Portsmouth, started at right-back, Dutchman Ryan Babel was
chosen ahead of Yossi Benayoun with Spain forward Fernando
Torres expected to again provide the goals along with
captain Steven Gerrard, fit following a groin problem.
Given title rivals United had won earlier in the afternoon,
coupled with victories on Saturday for both Chelsea and,
most impressively, Arsenal, there was little margin for
error if Liverpool were to avoid playing catch up after just
However, the Reds never really got going, with Torres
Indeed, Liverpool should have been more than 1-0 down at
half-time had Anfield old boy Robbie Keane not missed a
couple of clear chances before full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto
smashed in a 25-yard effort past Pepe Reina.
Although the visitors were handed a lifeline back into the
match when Johnson was upended by keeper Heurelho Gomes to
give away a penalty, which Gerrard converted on 54 minutes,
Spurs soon regained the lead as Sebastien Bassong, an
£8million signing from Newcastle, headed in a free-kick from
While there is, of course, plenty of football left to be
played between now and May, Benitez knows his men will have
to do much, much better if they are to finish ahead of the
After a slow start, there was a stoppage on 14 minutes when
Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher collided heads after both
jumping for a high ball.
The English defender had to go off for treatment on a bloody
gash, before returning with some heavy bandages.
Gerrard let fly with a 25-yard effort, which was just wide
of Gomes' right-hand post.
Spurs then really should have gone ahead on 30 minutes.
Wilson Palacios got away down the right, and looped the ball
across to the far post.
Modric lofted it back into the six-yard box, where Keane
arrived with a diving header - but one which was straight at
Reina, who reacted brilliantly.
The Liverpool keeper then denied his former team-mate once
again, this time standing up well as Keane tried a chip.
On 44 minutes, Skrtel gave away a free-kick in a dangerous
position, some 25 yards out, when he fouled Palacios.
Tom Huddlestone drove his effort into the defenders - but
the ball fell kindly for Assou-Ekotto, who promptly smashed
it back into the top corner.
Liverpool regrouped at half-time and produced a flowing move
when Dirk Kuyt touched the ball back to Torres, who laid it
on for Gerrard, but the England midfielder struck his low
shot just wide from 20 yards.
A fine fingertip save from Reina then denied Palacios a
second goal for Spurs following a rasping 25-yard drive
towards the top right corner.
Liverpool found a way back into the match when they were
awarded a penalty on 54 minutes.
Johnson was upended by Spurs keeper Gomes as the full-back
burst into the right side of the box, and Gerrard stepped up
to fire the ball past the Spurs keeper.
Tottenham looked to respond straight away, with Defoe's shot
on the turn blocked by Carragher.
The defender was then booked for a foul on the striker as
the home side pressed again.
It proved a costly free-kick to concede, as from it, Spurs
regained the lead on 59 minutes.
Modric, from the right, floated the ball over through a
crowded penalty area, where Bassong got up to head into the
corner and mark his debut in style.
On 67 minutes, Liverpool replaced Babel with Benayoun as
Benitez opted for 'Plan B', while Spurs sent on summer
signing Peter Crouch for Keane.
Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty when
substitute Andriy Voronin went down following a shoulder
challenge by Assou-Ekotto - but this time, referee Phil Dowd
was not interested.
Tempers frayed on the Liverpool bench, with assistant boss
Sammy Lee sent to the stands for continued protests.