Glen Johnson celebrates his scoring at Anfield vs Stoke.
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
"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
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
"It has been great for me and helped me to settle in here
quickly, and that has shown in my performances already so I
"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
"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
"He cut inside and left people for dead. He showed similar
form against Stoke and was outstanding on the right for us."
rubbies rumour mongers
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
Benitez is undoubtedly bitterly frustrated at the financial
constraints enforced on him by the American owners this
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
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
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
Torres also went close before Liverpool got the goal their
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
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
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
"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
"My team never gave up, they are an honest crew who will
work right to the end, but Liverpool were on a different
"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
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
"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
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
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."
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
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
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
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.