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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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