Getting into stride soon key to title hopes
By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post
It's absolute rubbish to suggest Liverpool's title
chances were finished by losing to Chelsea on Sunday.
If Manchester United had won on Sunday then it would have
been tough because of the amount of games you have to win
and rely on them losing to catch up.
Yes, they're a few points behind but they've only played
four games and a couple of home wins this week will put them
right back up there.
But that's not to say that winning the Premiership could be
beyond Liverpool very soon.
In fact, if they don't turn things round within the next
month then they can pretty much forget it.
What happens in that time depends on Rafael Benitez. Simply,
he has to decide on his best XI and stick with it.
All this changing things round is stopping Liverpool getting
into any sort of stride.
It didn't happen at Sheffield United on the opening day and
a month later we're still waiting.
Even in the modern game, you need a certain amount of
continuity in a team because you still need relationships
and partnerships to build up.
If a right back and right midfielder play together over time
they get that understanding of each other's games, something
you can't buy.
It's the same with centre-halves, central midfielders,
If you keep changing these combinations, you're swimming
against the tide every week.
The odd change in football is always going to happen but by
swapping a number of personnel every week you're not letting
And that makes it really, really difficult because you're
falling behind your main rivals straight away.
You only have to look at the most successful teams of the
last 15 years of Premiership football, Manchester United and
It's always been obvious what their best starting line-ups
have been and even in the past two years with all the
players Jose Mourinho has had at his disposal, you can
pretty much predict what his favourite XI is week in, week
Simply, if you change your team I don't think you can win
And if you do have a settled team and you are losing games
at least then you can point to something specific. If you
keep changing it, then it's very hard to clarify what the
problem is with the team.
And yet, the performance against Chelsea suggests there
isn't that much wrong with the way Liverpool are playing.
It's just that teams like Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester
United can go on nine or 10-game winning runs. They have all
had a hiccup this season but if they go on one of those runs
it could be too late for Liverpool.
After all, resting players so they are still in good shape
come March or April is fine, but the gap might be too big by
It might be a long season but that's only when you get to
March. Nobody is tired in September.
I also worry about the relationship between Rafael Benitez
and Steven Gerrard.
Benitez is a really good manager and has done a great job at
Liverpool but not making Gerrard the player he builds the
team around could be fatal this season.
At Chelsea on Sunday he was on the left, which is all very
well. He is Liverpool's best player and we know he can play
But Benitez has to decide where to put him because he makes
When Gerrard doesn't play they are 25% down in creativity,
with the goals he scores and chances that he creates.
In a settled team he would be much happier with whatever
position he was in, in the centre of midfield or not.
So what I hope this week is that Benitez just goes with what
he thinks is his best XI in two homes games. Newcastle and
Tottenham are just sitting up and begging for six points to
be taken off them at Anfield.
And supposing Liverpool are two or three up in these games
with 20 minutes to go, then make some changes and give
players that rest.
The win is in the bag, and the players won't be burning
So it's time to settle on that best XI and run with it -
then hopefully it will produce that win-win situation.
Benitez fails to get his reward
By Ian Doyle - Daily Post
Disappointed Rafael Benitez yesterday insisted his team
deserved more after falling to another Premiership defeat at
Didier Drogba's magnificent 42nd-minute strike was enough
for Jose Mourinho's side to claim a 1-0 victory at Stamford
It was Liverpool's second successive Premiership defeat and
leaves them eight points adrift of the Londoners, albeit
with a game in hand.
Liverpool wasted a clutch of clear openings with Chelsea
having played most of the second half with 10 men following
Michael Ballack's 51st-minute sending off for a stamp on
But the visitors were denied a clear penalty by referee Mike
Riley 14 minutes from time when Frank Lampard shoved Steven
Gerrard to the ground inside the area.
However, Benitez admitted his team's profligacy in front of
goal was the main reason for a sixth successive Premiership
defeat to Chelsea.
"It was a clear push by Frank Lampard on Steven Gerrard,"
said the Liverpool manager. "But I suppose we can also talk
about Mohamed Sissoko and whether he should have been shown
a second yellow card, but we cannot change the score.
"We were a little unlucky. If you analyse the game as a
whole, I think we deserved more.
"I think in the first half we created clear chances through
Kuyt and Gerrard and we were controlling the game, but one
player changed the game.
"In the second against 10 men we were much better in the
wide areas, we managed to get in crosses and shots and we
created chances against a good team."
Liverpool have now failed to score in their last three
games, but Benitez remains confident his team will find the
target if they continue playing in the same vein of form.
"The positive thing is that in the last three games away
from home we have created more chances than the home team,"
he added. "But there's still plenty of time for us to start
scoring goals. If you create chances then you will score
again. I am sure that Kuyt will score goals for us, as will
Crouch, Bellamy and Fowler if we keep creating the chances.
"I have confidence in the team if we continue playing like
this. It is clear we are improving but we need to start
getting three points, it's a long race and we need to keep
going as we're still only in the beginning of the season,"
Of Drogba's winner, Benitez said: "We conceded a goal
because Drogba is a good player, not because the team made a
mistake. Sometimes you cannot control every situation on the
pitch and it was a very good goal by a good player."
Benitez: We deserved something
By James Pearson - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez believes Liverpool deserved something from
their trip to Chelsea on Sunday.
The Reds left Stamford Bridge with nothing thanks to Didier
Drogba's stunning winner shortly before half time.
However, it was all the visitors after the interval
following Michael Ballack's dismissal for stamping on
Benitez knows his side have made a slow start to the
campaign, after losing their last two Premiership games, but
now wants the team to push on.
"I think we deserved more from the game," Benitez told the
club's official website.
"In the first half we created clear chances through (Dirk)
Kuyt and (Steven) Gerrard, but one player won the game for
Chelsea with a fantastic goal.
"We started the second half creating more chances and
getting into good positions.
"The push on Gerrard by (Frank) Lampard was a clear penalty,
but we cannot change these things now.
"It's clear that we need more points, but it's only the
beginning of the season and it's a long race. We need to get
By James Pearson - Sky Sports
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho believes referee Mike Riley
was right to dismiss Michael Ballack against Liverpool.
The Blues had to play most of the second half against
Liverpool a man light after Riley deemed the Germany
international to have stamped on Mohamed Sissoko.
Despite being on the back foot for virtually the entire
second half, Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch both squandered
chances as The Reds suffered back-to-back Premiership
"It was a deserved red card," said the Portuguese tactician.
"He told me he did not go in to hurt the guy but the rules
Mourinho was in awe of his side's winner with Didier Drogba
superbly lashing home with a left-footed volley from outside
"It was a fantastic goal, a fantastic victory, incredible
spirit and unbelievable desire," he continued.
"For the spirit I think we deserved the three points."
Meanwhile, Ballack has revealed he has apologised to Sissoko
for his challenge that resulted in his first straight red
card of his illustrious career.
"It's a bad situation for me," said the ex-Bayern Munich
ace. "It is the first straight red in my career.
"I didn't mean to injure him. I've just seen him now and
I've said sorry."
By Mandeep Sanghera - BBC Sport Online
Chelsea increased the gap over title rivals Liverpool to
eight points after a stunning Didier Drogba winner.
Drogba swivelled and powered in a shot from 18 yards to put
the Blues ahead before the home side's Michael Ballack was
sent off for an apparent stamp.
Steven Gerrard spurned the best chance for the visitors when
he shot straight at keeper Petr Cech from eight yards.
Liverpool were denied a penalty when Gerrard seemed to be
pushed before Peter Crouch missed with a late header.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho had waited in the tunnel for Reds
counterpart Rafael Benitez prior to kick-off as the
antagonism between the pair appeared to have been eased with
a shake of the hands.
When the action got under way, Chelsea slowly started to
exert some authority against a Liverpool side that was
sitting back and trying to sting the Blues on the
Chelsea struggled to break down the discipline and
organisation of the Reds, while the visitors were let down
by some stray passing.
But Reds striker Dirk Kuyt almost unlocked a cagey first
half when a defence-splitting diagonal ball from Xabi Alonso
left him with a clear sight of goal.
Kuyt made powerful contact with a rising, angled drive but
agonisingly saw it come back off the crossbar.
Frank Lampard saw a 25-yard free-kick easily gathered by
keeper Jose Reina, while at the other end Craig Bellamy had
a shot saved as the rival teams enjoyed yet another tight
It needed a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock and
Drogba produced it when he chested down Lampard's ball, with
his back to goal.
In one move the Ivory Coast striker swivelled and unleashed
a left-foot, half-volley with such speed and power that it
left defender Jamie Carragher stunned and Reina rooted to
Mohamed Sissoko was fortunate not to be sent off for a
second bookable offence after a foul on Lampard before
Gerrard came close to equalising just before the break.
Gerrard cut in from his left-midfield position and decided
to shoot from a tight angle - instead of crossing for
better-placed team-mates - only to see his shot sail shot
Chelsea suffered a setback when Ballack was red-carded for a
rash 51st-minute challenge on Sissoko when it appeared he
stamped on his rival midfielder's leg.
The visitors slowly started to capitalise on their advantage
in numbers and created a glorious chance for Gerrard, who
saw a fierce shot from eight yards blocked by Cech.
Arjen Robben had a penalty claim waved away at the other end
when he was the filling between a Carragher and Daniel Agger
sandwich as the game opened up.
Liverpool's turn to be incensed came when they were not
awarded a spot-kick for what appeared to be a Lampard push
The visitors had chances to pull level but lacked a cutting
edge and Crouch headed straight at Cech late on to sum up