After The Match 


Liverpool-Debrecen 1-0 (1-0)         16.9.09                         CL
Goals: Kuyt (45)
Team: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Gerrard, Benayoun, Riera, Kuyt, Torres
Subs: Babel (Riera 80), Mascherano (Benayoun 87),
Aurelio (Kuyt 90)
Not used: Kyrgiakos, Voronin, Cavalieri, Spearing
Yellow: Gerrard (26)        Fodor (21)
Red: None
Referee: Pedro Proenca (Por)
Attendance: 41,591


Shots on target: 7-3
Shots off target: 16-8
Blocked shots: 2-5
Fouls conceded: 9-12
Corners: 10-6
Offsides: 4-3
Possession: 68.1-31.9
Yellow: 1-1

HEADLINES "It was difficult to create chances..."
Dirk Kuyt
1609: Liverpool hope for power surge
1609: Rafa defends misfiring Reds
1609: Carragher admits Reds weren't vintage
1609: Deadly Dirk downs defiant Debrecen  

Liverpool hope for power surge

By Phil McNulty - BBC Sport Online

Liverpool's great European nights at Anfield can - according to managing director Christian Purslow - supply him with a surge of energy on a par with being plugged into the National Grid. This was not one of them.

The particular occasion Purslow had in mind was the 2005 Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, so comparisons with an opening group game against Debrecen, Hungary's first representatives in this phase for 14 years, are unfair.

If ever a game needed a few thousand volts shot through it to jolt it into life, it was this undistinguished affair settled by Dirk Kuyt's goal in first-half stoppage time.

This was more power cut than power surge. Even Anfield itself was lacking its usual electricity, with the rare sight of empty seats and a wave of supreme indifference sweeping around Liverpool's supporters at the final whistle.

Liverpool's win was more memorable for milestones than the match itself. It was their 100th win in Europe's elite competition in Rafael Benitez's 300th game as manager.

And yet, for all the failings of a disjointed performance, this was a satisfactory end to a satisfactory week for Liverpool, with Purslow rightly proclaiming the benefits of a new 80m shirt sponsorship deal with investment bank Standard Chartered.

As with Chelsea on Tuesday, the currency that counts at this stage of the Champions League is points not performances. Liverpool's subdued display will not be recalled if they reach the knockout phase, which they surely will

A win was what was required to round off a spell where they have reasserted a measure of authority on the pitch with victories over Bolton, Burnley and now Debrecen and flexed muscle off the pitch with the new shirt deal and a positive blizzard of statements of intent.

Of course, when Purslow delivers messages along the lines of: "We're Liverpool. We're not interested in being second best" he is pitching to fans who feel lines of trust have been broken with American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

And when he adds: "I'm not embarrassed to say we are Liverpool Football Club - the most famous football club in the world" then there may be some who might mischievously suggest that one is aimed in the direction of Old Trafford.

It does not take a massive leap of the imagination to hear Sir Alex Ferguson's teeth grinding as some brave soul plucks up the courage to read those words to him.

Time will tell whether more actions will follow these bold statements. There is no bad news in signing such a lucrative deal, but Liverpool's fans will only feel the warm glow of Purslow's words when they see how much of Standard Bank's cash lands in Benitez's lap and how long it takes for foundations to be laid for a new stadium on Stanley Park.

The new deal is a promising starting point and there is a sense around Anfield that the club is finally moving forward again and that there is, although you should whisper this one, a semblance of normality returning after recent boardroom traumas.

There was also renewed talk at Anfield on Wednesday that Hicks has instructed bankers to seek out investment in the Middle East to bolster Liverpool's finances even further.

It was against this backdrop that Liverpool's latest Champions League pursuit began. Benitez admits Liverpool's priority this season is the Premier League, but offer a proud son of Madrid a place in the final at the Bernabeu next May and he might just reconsider.

And the sight of Fernando Torres, the one-time icon of Atletico Madrid, strolling around the Anfield pitch cradling his baby daughter an hour after the final whistle while deep in conversation with another team-mate from the city Pepe Reina, was a reminder that there are special incentives at work in this tournament for Liverpool.

It was hardly an auspicious start against the unknowns of Debrecen, whose delight at simply playing at Anfield was illustrated by members of the club's hierarchy cheering wildly when they won a corner - then producing cameras to record the moment for posterity.

And their spirits were helped by a Liverpool team who struggled for rhythm. Kuyt did well in the role Steven Gerrard has made his own just behind Torres. The captain dropped to a deeper role, but the sooner he is restored to riding shotgun with Torres the better as far as Liverpool are concerned.

Gerrard kept Lucas company in central midfield while Javier Mascherano remained on the bench. The Argentine's season has simply failed to get going and it is to be hoped, for his and Liverpool's sake, that this is a temporary blip and not leftovers from the blocking of a summer switch to Barcelona.

It does not take a long memory to recall that Liverpool have had their struggles in group games in the past before emerging as contenders in the closing stages of the Champions League.

This win, however scrappy, offers early security against the sort of anxiety they have suffered before escaping into the group stage. European giants such as AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid know the dangers Liverpool pose when that happens.

Not a night that will live long in the memory - but the first tentative steps on the road back to Madrid for Benitez.

Rafa defends misfiring Reds

Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez admits his side should have scored more goals during their 1-0 win over Debrecen, but is happy to get off to a winning start in the UEFA Champions League.

Dirk Kuyt's first-half strike was the difference between the two sides after he slotted home a rebound from a Fernando Torres strike.

Liverpool racked up 23 shots on goal with only seven of those hitting the target on a night which saw the home side dominate without playing particularly well.

Captain Steven Gerrard endured a miserable afternoon, picking up a yellow card and missing the target with numerous efforts, but Benitez insists the win is the most important aspect of the game.

"I think the main thing was to get three points," Benitez told Sky Sports.

"OK, we could have done it a little better by scoring another goal with the chances that we had, but because we didn't score (a second), we were thinking that they could've scored so it was more difficult until the end."

For all Liverpool's dominance, their Hungarian opponents offered a genuine threat on the break as the Reds searched for an elusive second, prompting Benitez to introduce Javier Mascherano and Fabio Aurelio late on.

"Their last two or three attacks gave them some options, some hope, so I think we needed to score a second goal and always in football until you finish the game you have to be awake," he said.

The Reds boss was also keen to point out Debrecen's defensive qualities as they made a modest impression on their Champions League debut.

"I think they were well organised, efficient with intensity so it was not easy to find the spaces," added the Spaniard.

The win means Liverpool sit joint top of Group E along with Lyon, who beat Fiorentina at home by the same scoreline in the group's other game on Wednesday.

Carragher admits
Reds weren't vintage

ITV - Football

Jamie Carragher admitted Liverpool were a long way from their best in beating Debrecen 1-0 at Anfield in their Champions League opener.

Dirk Kuyt got the only goal of the game just before half-time, taking advantage of a goalkeeping error to prod home the ball after Vukasin Poleksic failed to hold Fernando Torres' shot.

Liverpool struggled to create clear chances, but Carragher was happy simply to take the three points.

"We didn't play well, we know that, just the 1-0 tonight, but we wanted to get a win as quick as we could to qualify from the group," he said on ITV.

"It's not our best performance but we got the result."

But despite the close scoreline, boss Rafael Benitez was happy with his team's effort.

"We had three or four good chances and if we take our chances it would be easier," he said. "But it's 1-0, and the most important thing is to get the three points.

"In the first half we had two or three very good chances and in the second half it's the same. People didn't know what to expect because they didn't know the other team, but they showed they're not bad."

Kuyt was asked to play behind Torres with Steven Gerrard dropped deeper into midfield, and the Dutchman was forced to admit the formation did not produce enough openings.

"It was difficult to create chances," he said. "In the first half we should have scored more than one goal to make the game a lot easier.

"Like Jamie said, it's not the best performance, but we got the clean sheet and won the game. That's the most important thing in the first game."

Kuyt, who spent most of last season playing on the right wing for Liverpool, added that he was happy to switch position to wherever Benitez asks him to go.

"It doesn't matter which position I play if I can be important for the team," he said.

"I have played (in the middle) before. Last year I played most of the time on the right, and this year most of the time behind Fernando. Maybe on Saturday it will be a different position, but that is up to the manager."

Deadly Dirk downs
defiant Debrecen


Dirk Kuyt's strike on the stroke of half-time gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over plucky Debrecen in their Champions League Group E clash at Anfield.

Kuyt's 12th goal in 35 Champions League games for Liverpool saw the Anfield men claim three points - but there was nothing to suggest a Madrid final in May is on the cards.

The Dutchman is now Liverpool's third-highest scorer in this competition and they were more than thankful for his eventual winner in the final seconds of the first half.

The Hungarian champions did their best, while Liverpool were some way short of their peak.

Rafael Benitez took charge of his 300th Liverpool match as the Reds produced their 100th victory in this competition - their first was 45 years ago - but the Spaniard would have wanted a better display than this to mark a little piece of Liverpool history.

This was Debrecen's debut in the group stages but if they cannot improve on this showing they may well not win a point.

Liverpool kept faith with the side that had produced their best performance on Saturday in beating Burnley 4-0, with Fabio Aurelio on the bench for his first involvement of the season following a knee injury.

But they were sluggish and uninspired and it took them an awfully long time in the first period to get some reward for their total domination.

In fact there were barely a couple of seconds left in the half to restart the match when Kuyt forced the ball home after Vukasin Poleksic had palmed out a Fernando Torres drive.

Before that it had been one-way traffic towards the Hungarian champions' goal.

Such was the general wastefulness, even Steven Gerrard was squandering chances regularly. Three efforts sailed wide, a header dropped over the crossbar and a low drive flashed inches wide.

Albert Riera was equally at fault. Three times he was put away, and on each occasion Poleksic got a hand on the efforts.

Gerrard even found himself booked for taking a free-kick too quickly by Portuguese official Pedro Proenca, who had clearly pointed to his whistle telling the Liverpool skipper to wait.

It was unnecessary, and could come back to haunt the England star as the competition progresses and suspensions become damaging.

And so it went on. The nearest Liverpool came before Kuyt's strike was after 30 minutes when Norbert Meszaros kicked off the line from the Dutchman after another Poleksic save from Riera.

The only time Jose Reina was called into action was to touch over a 20-yard effort from Meszaros.

Liverpool improved after the break, which was not difficult, and Gerrard smashed a swerving 25-yarder against the crossbar before Yossi Benayoun went on a brilliant run past a string of defenders before forcing Poleksic into a fumbling save at the foot of the near post.

Lucas, having another fine game in midfield, saw a powerful header flash wide but Liverpool were seemingly playing with a belief that one goal was enough.

But that is a dangerous policy, and Debrecen caused some worrying moments towards the end as they almost took advantage of a succession of set-plays.

Ryan Babel came on with 10 minutes left for Riera, his first appearance since yet another outburst over his lack of matches, and he produced one clever juggling act to fire just wide.

But Adamo Coulibaly, Debrecen's French frontman, almost punished Liverpool by forcing his way through and stabbing a shot wide after 82 minutes.

That Liverpool sent on the defensive Javier Mascherano for the inventive Benayoun with three minutes left, and then Aurelio for Kuyt in injury time, said everything about Benitez's concerns and frustrations about what he was watching.

He certainly could not afford to see a couple of points thrown away by a piece of sloppy defending and there were certainly a few of those.

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Thor Zakariassen