After The Match 


Liverpool-Portsmouth 3-0 (2-0)         19.11..05                    PL
Goals: Zenden (23), Cisse (38), Morientes (79)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Warnock, Zenden, Gerrard, Hamann, Garcia, Crouch, Cisse
Subs: Morientes (Garcia 22), Alonso (Cisse 69),
Josemi (Gerrard 83)
Not used: Dudek, Traore
Yellow: Hamann (75)                Viafara (62)
Red: None
Referee: Peter Walton
Attendance: 44,394
Shots on target: 8-4
Shots off target: 3-2
Possession: 66-34
Fouls conceded: 7-8
Corners: 5-5
Yellow: 1-1



HEADLINES "I'll do anything
I can to score..."
     Peter Crouch

2211: How Liverpool are keeping it clean
1911: Rafa hails improving Reds
1911: Crouch staying positive
1911: Reds heap pressure on Perrin


How Liverpool are keeping it clean

By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post

Liverpool didn't get out of first gear at the weekend, but unlike Everton, they didn't have to.

Portsmouth were abject - totally lacking ambition and very weak in mid-field which is where Liverpool were strongest.

Four wins and four clean sheets speaks well for the defence and they are playing very well as a unit.

I think it is the subtle changes Rafael Benitez has made further upfield which have also led at least in part to the recent success.

The Spaniard has dropped 4-2-3-1 for the moment in favour of 4-4-2 and it is reaping rich dividends.

It is like Benitez has realised that in the Premier League, he can play more attacking players with less fear of a counterattack, and that will lead to more success.

By having more players looking to go forward, Liverpool are bound to spend more time in the opposition's half than their own.

Logically that should mean more clean sheets and goals scored, just because of where the ball is on the pitch.

So, while Sami Hyypia might be vulnerable if he is isolated and someone runs at him with pace, teams are not getting into the position to do that.

They may have the individual talent, but collectively they cannot break Liverpool down enough and are also on the back foot more and more.

It is good to see and shows how Benitez is coming to terms with the Premiership and with his players.

He knows their strengths and weaknesses and is adopting his strategy to accommodate them and the league, not vice versa.

Given that, it will be interesting to see if his transfer targets change at all in January as he seems to be coming to terms with the Premiership more and more.

Rafa hails improving Reds

By Tom Adams - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez hailed his ever-improving Liverpool side after they ran riot over Portsmouth in a 3-0 victory at Anfield.

The Reds were in imperious form as they recorded their fourth win in a row in all competitions, and Boudewijn Zenden, Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes supplied the firepower in the convincing victory.

After a difficult start to the season in which they struggled to find the back of the net, Benitez explained that the victory over Pompey gave further weight to his belief that Liverpool are growing in stature.

"I think the team is improving, I always say the same, but you need to win for people to believe you and this is the situation now, we are playing well, scoring goals, and winning," said Benitez.

The game at Anfield witnessed a moment of pantomime comedy as Peter Crouch fluffed his lines against his former employers by seeing his penalty saved.

Zenden was on hand to head in the rebound and Benitez explained that Crouch's determination to take the kick was in line with club policy.

"We have two or three players who can shoot and then the player with more confidence, in this case Peter, says I want to take it," said Benitez.

"For us the most important thing is to score goals, maybe if Peter scores a goal it will be different and we will be talking about other things.

"It was important to score, Bolo scored, and we created a lot of chances."

Benitez also voiced his delight that the impressive Morientes found himself on the scoresheet for the first time in The Premiership since April.

"It was important for him, after the international game he was a little bit tired, we need to use him and it was really good for him to score another goal."

With a home UEFA Champions League tie with Real Betis fast approaching, the Reds boss also dispelled fears that injured duo Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia could miss the visit of their compatriots.

"I think both will be fit, two kicks, one in the hip and the other one in the knee but I think it is not really important and I hope to see them fit for the next game."

Crouch staying positive

By Lewis Rutledge - Sky Sports

Peter Crouch is determined to stay positive in his quest for a first Liverpool goal.

The giant striker missed a golden opportunity to open his account for the season when he saw his penalty saved against Portsmouth on Saturday, but insists that the way he stepped up to take the spot kick illustrates his strength of character.

"I pretty much made the decision about who was going to take the penalty. I wasn't going to hide when it was given. That's something I will never do," said Crouch.

"I'm desperate to score my first goal for Liverpool and, of course, that was a great chance to get off the mark.

"I scored a penalty against Portsmouth last season so I was confident. I was going to put it the other side of the keeper but unfortunately I changed my mind and I went the wrong way.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Thank God Bolo [Zenden] got to the rebound first, so it didn't work out too badly."

The former Southampton man added that his failure to find the net from 12 yards would not stop him from volunteering again in future.

"I'll do anything I can to score and if we get another penalty, I'll step up again," he said defiantly.

"Okay, it was another game without a goal but I was pleased with my overall play. I felt I contributed to a great team performance."

Reds heap pressure on Perrin

By Tom Adams - Sky Sports

Liverpool recorded their third Premiership victory in a row as they heaped the pressure on Portsmouth boss Alain Perrin with a 3-0 win at Anfield.

The Reds dominated from start to finish and Perrin's side were desperately lacking in invention and enterprise throughout the encounter, and on this evidence they may need more than the ambitious transfer target of Roy Keane if they are to avoid a prolonged relegation struggle.

For much of the game Peter Crouch was seemingly pursuing a personal crusade to open up his Liverpool account against his former employers, and the England man may need to heed his manager's words and develop a tougher mentality to overcome the psychological scars created by a missed first half penalty.

Boudewijn Zenden spared his blushes by heading in the rebound after winning the spot kick in dubious circumstances, and a lucky Djibril Cisse effort and a second half strike from Fernando Morientes made it a productive afternoon for the Liverpool front-line.

Rafa Benitez's side led from start to finish in the first period and would have torn the visitors apart were in not for some impressive goalkeeping from Jamie Ashdown.

The Pompey shot-stopper showed quick reflexes to deny Crouch in the opening quarter of an hour as he repelled the angular striker's header from a Steven Gerrard corner.

The Reds were proving to be a consistent aerial threat and Andy O'Brien intervened to prevent Cisse from having a clear header on goal, before the Frenchman stole in three minutes later to see another effort gathered by Ashdown.

Despite their dominance, Liverpool were somewhat gifted the chance to take the lead in highly dubious circumstances as Zenden nutmegged Andy Griffin on the edge of the box, and, with minor contact from the Pompey man, fell to the ground to win the spot kick.

Farcical scenes soon followed as Crouch, so desperate to open his account in front of the Kop, grabbed the ball and agonisingly saw his penalty against his former side saved by a diving Ashdown.

However, Zenden, the protagonist of the whole piece, reacted quickest and headed in the rebound despite Gregory Vignal's best efforts to clear off the line.

Crouch was desperate to impress by any means and even tried a speculative overhead kick from the edge of the box before proving troublesome as Cisse's wayward volley was blocked.

Substitute Morientes, on for injured compatriot Luis Garcia, also found Ashdown in determined form as he met Cisse's well-flighted cross with a strong header that the Pompey keeper parried from close range.

Perrin's men were denied a penalty of their own as Stephen Warnock tangled with John Viafara on two occasions, and in a sterile first half for the visitors the isolated figure of lone striker Tresor Lomana Lua Lua summed up his side's frustration with two tepid long range efforts.

Indeed their torment was to continue before the break as Cisse, proving dangerous from the right flank after Garcia's injury, negotiated Vignal and saw his chipped cross float over Ashdown and luckily nestle in the far corner.

After the break Crouch continued his personal crusade but his volley from Steve Finnan's hooked cross was blocked by Griffin, and from the resultant play the striker could not direct Morientes' dragged shot goalwards.

The Spaniard then set his strike partner clear with a glorious back-heel, but Crouch's endeavours again resulted in frustration as he blasted his effort straight at a grateful Ashdown.

Liverpool continued to pile forward as Pompey could only offer another unthreatening Lua Lua effort, and Zenden wasted both time and space as Griffin blocked his shot - whilst Morientes was also denied.

Crouch fluffed an attempted lob before Laurent Robert attempted to surprise Jose Reina with a quick 30-yard effort, and the Pompey winger was disappointed to be removed by Perrin soon after.

However, the home side continued to dominate and Ashdown was called into action once again as he dived full-stretch to his left to collect a low drive from Dietmar Hamann.

Just three minutes later, and almost out of the blue, Portsmouth nearly reduced the deficit as Brian Priske bundled in to meet Gary O'Neil's corner - although Finnan was on hand to clear off the line after Reina parried.

Collins Mbesuma was called upon to replace the jaded Lua Lua, and the Zambian hit-man showed intricate footwork to carve out an opening for Matthew Taylor which the former Luton man skewed wide.

Whilst all the focus was seemingly on whether Crouch would break his goal drought, it was strike partner Morientes who scored his first Premiership goal since April with ten minutes to go.

Crouch provided the knockdown and Sami Hyypia, in an advanced position in the six-yard box, exercised good close control as he fed Morientes who made no mistake as he tapped in from close range.

The former Real Madrid man then opened up the defence to unleash Gerrard, although the skipper shot wide, as Liverpool retained control in a game where their front men came to the fore and increased the focus on Perrin's position.

backbutton.gif (1697 bytes)

Thor Zakariassen