After The Match 


Liverpool-Stoke 4-0 (2-0)           19.8.09                             PL
Goals: Torres (4), Johnson (45), Kuyt (78), Ngog (90)
Team: Reina, Insua, Johnson, Ayala, Carragher, Mascherano, Lucas, Benayoun, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Voronin (Gerrard 82), Riera (Kuyt 82), Ngog (Torres 84)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Babel, Kelly
Yellow: Whitehead (12)
Red: None
Referee: P. Walton
Attendance: 44,318
Shots on target: 13-3
Shots off target: 5-1
Blocked shots: 2-2
Fouls conceded: 11-9
Corners: 11-5
Offsides: 0-3
Possession: 76.4-23.6
Yellow: 0-1
HEADLINES "We are at
the top of
the table now with 23 stitches."

Rafael Benitez
2108: Hansen: New boy could be difference
2008: Johnson delighted with Anfield start
2008: Rafa rubbies rumour mongers
2008: Pulis: Never write off Liverpool
1908: Rafa: That's why we signed Glen
1908: Reds get back on track

Glen Johnson celebrates his scoring at Anfield vs Stoke.
(Photo: AFP)

Hansen: New boy could be difference

By Michael Saleh - LFC Official Website

Alan Hansen believes Glen Johnson could be the decisive factor in helping Liverpool go one better this season and become Barclays Premier League champions.

The new boy made a huge impression on his home debut against Stoke on Wednesday, scoring one and setting up another.

Hansen was impressed with Johnson's all round play, and thinks his attributes will help transform Liverpool into an even more potent force in 2009-10.

"Liverpool have had some problems in the wide areas, full-backs and wide players, and they needed someone to get past that plain old defender," said the 54-year-old.

"Johnson has got the pace and trickery, and on Wednesday he had a fantastic game, he obviously got the goal as well. He also won the penalty kick on Sunday.

"We've still to see and judge him defensively, but we saw him at Portsmouth on many occasions. He can make the difference, especially down the right side."

The former Reds skipper was also pleased with the overall performance against Tony Pulis's men - and is still tipping Liverpool for the title.

"It was a positive reaction," said Hansen. "They were very effective, they passed it a lot better than they did on Sunday.

"The commitment was there, the effort was good, Gerrard was good, Torres got a goal, so any doom and gloom of Sunday has gone and they can look forward to the Villa game next Monday night."

Johnson delighted with Anfield start


Glen Johnson has thoroughly enjoyed the start of his Liverpool career and he has thanked his team-mates for helping him settle in so quickly.

The England full-back was the star of the show on Wednesday night as Liverpool beat Stoke 4-0 at Anfield, scoring on his home debut and helping set up two more in a devastating display down the right.

And manager Rafael Benitez, Stoke boss Tony Pulis and Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard were lining up to praise Johnson, who turns 25 on Saturday, after the game.

Johnson reckons his good start is all down to the speed with which he has adapted to his new surroundings.

He said: "It has been absolutely brilliant for me so far at Liverpool. The lads and everyone at the club have been fantastic.

"It has been great for me and helped me to settle in here quickly, and that has shown in my performances already so I am delighted."

"It was great to run out at Anfield, and to get the three points and keep a clean sheet made it a perfect night for me.

"To score a goal made it even better. Obviously it was brilliant to score my first for Liverpool and to do it on my home debut was amazing, but the win was more important to get us out of the starting blocks.

"It was great to be part of the home side here for a change. As an opponent the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when the fans at Anfield sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' so to hear them singing it for you is very special.

"At a club like Liverpool you don't want to lose any match, so to lose the first game of the season was disappointing.

"But the lads showed great character to put that behind us and hopefully we can go on a good run now."

Gerrard praised his England team-mate, saying: "We saw what Glen will offer this team with the run that won the penalty at Spurs.

"He cut inside and left people for dead. He showed similar form against Stoke and was outstanding on the right for us."

Rafa rubbies rumour mongers

Liverpool Echo

The omens were good.

The last time unfounded rumours about Rafa Benitez’s future spread like wildfire around the city Liverpool went on to beat Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.

This victory might not live quite so long in the memory but it was hugely significant nonetheless.

Yesterday’s news of bookmakers slashing the odds on the manager’s departure led to more tall stories about the Spaniard having left his post.

His players’ response was emphatic and unequivocal.

This side had a point to prove after Sunday’s tame opening defeat at White Hart Lane and they made it in the best possible way.

Benitez is undoubtedly bitterly frustrated at the financial constraints enforced on him by the American owners this summer.

The lack of cash is a serious threat to the club’s title hopes but Benitez is no quitter.

He has unfinished business here and last night proved that although the depth of the squad remains a concern, when his best XI are on song they are a match for anyone.

Benitez maybe keeping his thoughts to himself about the money problems but the fans made their feelings loud and clear – holding up red cards to show their displeasure at the way ‘custodians’ Tom Hicks and George Gillett are running their beloved club.

Stoke were the only Premier League side to stop the Reds from scoring last season but they were blown away in ruthless fashion. Those key players who failed to shine at Tottenham were transformed. Fernando Torres’ lacklustre performance last Sunday had sparked fears he was suffering from fatigue after only a short summer break due to the Confederations Cup.

His lack of sharpness looked a major concern but a pre-match rollicking from Benitez appeared to do the trick.

Benitez had urged him to stop arguing with opposition players and match officials and focus on scoring goals.

The message appeared to get through as Torres needed just four minutes to open his tally for the campaign.

Torres certainly had plenty to moan about. He left the pitch battered, bruised and with stitches in a head wound but this time he let his feet do the talking.

Skipper Steven Gerrard also had his swagger back and played a part in three of the Reds’ four goals.

Glen Johnson enjoyed a home debut to remember, scoring one and terrorising Stoke with his lung-bursting runs down the right flank. The £17million defender was bought for nights like this when visiting teams sit deep and on last night’s evidence he is worth every penny. In the middle of the park Javier Mascherano and Lucas dominated from start to finish.

Lucas has been unfairly compared to Xabi Alonso when the fact is he is a very different kind of midfielder.

The Brazilian has had to fight tooth and nail to earn respect among supporters but this display should go some way to silencing the doubters.

Lucas was excellent throughout, snapping at Stoke’s heels, breaking up countless attacks and getting the Reds moving again with his clever distribution.

Stoke were chasing their first win at Anfield for 50 years and Liverpool were looking to avoid starting a season with two straight defeats for the first time since 1924.

In truth neither ever looked likely after an opening period in which the Reds flew out of the blocks in the same fashion which left the likes of Real Madrid and Aston Villa gasping for air in the closing months of last season.

It was a dream start as Lucas helped create an opening for Gerrard and the skipper produced the perfect cross for Torres to finish with aplomb.

In contrast to Sunday’s display at Spurs, this time there was poise, pace and precision from the Reds to match the passion.

Stoke were never given time to settle and having wrestled control of proceedings the only surprise was that Liverpool had to wait until the stroke of half-time for a second goal.

Emiliano Insua will be having nightmares for some time after he inexplicably side footed wide when a first goal for the club beckoned.

Torres also went close before Liverpool got the goal their dominance deserved.

Dirk Kuyt’s goal bound shot from Gerrard’s corner was blocked by James Beattie but Johnson was on hand to acrobatically net the rebound.

At the other end it proved to be a quiet night for 18-year-old Spaniard Daniel Ayala who was handed his full debut after Martin Skrtel was ruled out with a cracked jaw.

The only other change was tactical with Yossi Benayoun rewarded for his impressive cameo at White Hart Lane with a start in place of Ryan Babel.

Benayoun repaid the manager’s faith in him with an increasingly influential role.

There were a couple of scares for the Reds early in the second half but Pepe Reina pulled off a stunning save to keep out Delap’s piledriver and then Johnson made a crucial interception to thwart Delap once again.

That was the wake-up call they needed and normal service was soon resumed.

Johnson’s partnership with Dirk Kuyt down the right showed real signs of promise and the duo went agonisingly close to adding a third.

Stoke were carved open again 12 minutes from time and this time the Reds made it count.

Mascherano’s clipped pass was expertly controlled by Gerrard whose blistering turn of pace left Matthew Etherington trailing in his wake.

The skipper provided picked out Kuyt who made no mistake from close range.

Substitute David Ngog provided the icing on the cake with a fourth late on after Sorensen had made a hash of Johnson’s deflected cross.

Pulis: Never write off Liverpool

Tony Pulis saw his brave Stoke side beaten 4-0 at Anfield last night and claimed it would be "crazy" to write of Liverpool as potential champions.

Pulis, who saw his side achieve a notable 0-0 draw in the corresponding fixture last season, said: "I hold my hands up, we were beaten by a better team and better players.

"I can't say they will win the title, but they will be right up there fighting for it. Anyone who says anything else is crazy.

"Liverpool created more chances against us here last season, but just did not take them.

"This time they were excellent. They do not only have Torres and Gerrard, who are world class. They have great players right through their team, and they showed that quality against us.

"My team never gave up, they are an honest crew who will work right to the end, but Liverpool were on a different level.

"To write them off after one defeat on the opening weekend, is crazy. They will be up their fighting for the title again, I have no doubt about that.

"But I have no complaints about the result. Gerrard's piece of skill to create the third was world class.

"And Johnson and Kuyt down the right gave us loads of problems all night. They are both fine players and that partnership will give a lot of teams plenty of problems this season."

Rafa: That's why we signed Glen

By Jimmy Rice at Anfield - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez claims Glen Johnson showed exactly why Liverpool signed him during the 4-0 victory over Stoke City on Wednesday.

The defender scored one and created countless other chances as further goals from Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and David Ngog gave the Reds their first win of 2009-10.

Benitez said: "I think we were looking for a player with quality going forward. He created a lot of chances, was a threat and also scored a goal. Our idea was to improve and have more quality in the wide areas and he showed that tonight.

"The first goal was important and the second was a big difference because they had to go forward, we had more space. We were patient, played well on the ball and took our chances."

Benitez also reserved words of praise for Lucas, who put in another commanding performance in the centre of midfield.

The boss said: "Lucas is a player with experience but he's still young. I think you could see today, including the experts on TV, that he's a very good player. Hopefully now they won't see him as a target because he's a very good lad, a good professional and a very good player."

Nineteen-year-old defender Daniel Ayala made his full competitive debut against the Potters - and Benitez believes he will become a better player as a result of 90 minutes alongside Jamie Carragher.

"Ayala is young and it was more or less his first official game," he said. "He was a little bit nervous but in the end he was very good. He has to work, have more games and experience."

One sour note was the stitches required by Torres after a clash of heads with Ryan Shawcross.

This after Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel required similar treatment at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Benitez quipped: "We are at the top of the table now with 23 stitches. Carra, Torres and Skrtel. I haven't seen how many Torres has but I can guarantee you it's about 10."

Reds get back on track

By Jamie Casey - Sky Sports

Liverpool got their title credentials back on track with a ruthless 4-0 thumping of Stoke City at Anfield.

The win is exactly the response manager Rafa Benitez will have wanted from his side following their opening weekend defeat to Tottenham on Sunday.

Stoke caused problems for the home side in minor spells either side of half-time but it was the influence of captain Steven Gerrard and new right-back Glen Johnson which ultimately proved the difference between the sides.

Two goals in the first half from Fernando Torres and Johnson sent the home side in at the break with a 2-0 lead despite struggling to deal with Stoke's aerial ability at times.

Gerrard was again instrumental in a fine Liverpool third after a great team goal ripped apart the away side as Dirk Kuyt slid in their third of the night.

Substitute David Ngog completed the rout in injury-time after more fine wing play from Johnson as Thomas Sorensen parried in the Stoke goal.

Spanish youngster Daniel Ayala made his full Liverpool debut, with Martin Skrtel failing to recover from a damaged jaw sustained in Saturday's defeat.

Ayala, 18, came on as a substitute at White Hart Lane for the injured Skrtel for his first senior appearance for Liverpool.

Yossi Benayoun replaced Ryan Babel, while Stoke made two changes from the side that beat Burnley - Glenn Whelan and Richard Cresswell replacing Liam Lawrence and Ricardo Fuller as Tony Pulis reverted to a more defensive system.

Liverpool fans' group, the Spirit of Shankly, organised a mass distribution of red cards ahead of the game to be waved by supporters protesting at the George Gillett-Tom Hicks ownership of the club.

Resentment runs deep at Anfield at the financial mess the club are in and Benitez's limited transfer budget.

But it was his record signing, Torres, who struck quickly to give the Reds the lead.

Lucas Leiva had seen a skidding 20-yarder held by Sorensen before Liverpool were ahead after just four minutes.

Gerrard burst through on the right to pull the ball back for his Spanish side-kick to drill past a helpless Sorensen.

Dean Whitehead was booked for an ugly 12th-minute foul on Javier Mascherano and Liverpool should have been two goals up when they broke at pace from their own box.

Torres racing away on the right to fire over a cross that full-back Emiliano Insua side-footed inches wide having made the same high-speed run down the other flank.

But Stoke maintained their determination and organisation, with Liverpool trying to hit them on the break. Much of the hosts' adventure was coming through Johnson.

Kuyt and Torres had shots saved and from a 44th minute corner they struck again. Kuyt's low header was blocked by Sorensen on the line and the ball fell for £17million signing Johnson to hook home from six yards.

Stoke came out after the break determined to get back into the game. A string of dangerous corners resulted in Jose Reina making an outstanding save to his right to keep out a fierce Delap drive.

Johnson then had to clear on the far post as a James Beattie cross-shot fizzed across the area.

But Liverpool increased the tempo of their game and were running at Stoke from all angles.

Gerrard fired in a 20-yard effort which Sorensen blocked, with Johnson now attacking down the right at every opportunity.

The Reds threatened to run away with things as Torres saw a lofted shot saved and Johnson cut into the box again to force Sorensen into a low save.

The third goal arrived after 78 minutes, with Johnson sending Gerrard into the box with a clever pass. The Liverpool captain powered on to drill in a low cross which Kuyt slid past Sorensen from close range.

Liverpool sent on Andriy Voronin and Albert Riera for Gerrard and Kuyt with nine minutes left, then three minutes later Ngog replaced Torres.

And it was Ngog who headed home from under the bar after another fine run and cross from Johnson had deflected into his path in injury-time.

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