Crouch: I have no excuses
Peter Crouch says he has "no excuses" for
his dismissal in the Carling Cup quarter-final defeat
The Liverpool striker was sent off for a two-footed
challenge on John Obi Mikel shortly after Frank Lampard had
scored Chelsea's first goal in the 2-0 win at Stamford
But Crouch insists he could have avoided the dismissal if
referee Martin Atkinson had pulled up Mikel for an earlier
foul in the build-up.
Crouch also claimed Mikel had "gone down like he's been
The England striker told the Liverpool Echo: "Mikel came in
with his studs up and that was in the back of my mind. Then
I thought there was another foul in there and obviously I've
lost my head.
"There are no excuses for the tackle I made but if the
referee had pulled the foul up when he should have done it
wouldn't have happened.
"A lot was going their way and I think frustration got the
better of me.
"You give and take with referees and sometimes the decisions
go for you and sometimes they don't so you can't always
Crouch added that he was far from happy with Mikel's
reaction to his second-half lunge.
He added: "What I'm thinking is if you go in on Frank
Lampard or John Terry would they roll around like Obi Mikel
did? I don't think they would have done.
"Would someone like Carra have gone down like that? I think
it's safe to say that he wouldn't.
"Foreign players have brought a lot to our game but that's
something you don't want to see. I didn't catch him but he's
gone down like he's been shot.
"It's frustrating because I thought we played okay as a team
and obviously it was always going to be difficult from the
moment I was sent off."
air of inevitability
about unlucky defeat
By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
There are now only three things certain in
life: death, taxes and a deflected Chelsea goal against
Frank Lampard supplied the latest entry into the Stamford
Bridge hall of fortune to help knock Rafael Benitez’s 10-man
team out of the Carling Cup last night.
The midfielder’s lucky 59th-minute strike sent the Londoners
on their way to victory in a tight quarter-final contest in
which Andriy Shevchenko’s last-minute goal gave the
scoreline a flattering appearance. A largely second-string
Liverpool emerged with credit from defeat, albeit with one
Benitez’s side were forced to play the last half-hour with
10 men following the sending-off of Peter Crouch for a
reckless challenge on Jon Obi Mikel.
While there was no debating the red card – the fourth in
Crouch’s career – Mikel’s histrionics after being felled
would have made even Cristiano Ronaldo wince. Instead,
Benitez’s ire was directed at referee Martin Atkinson for
the official’s failure to penalise Mikel seconds before
Crouch lost his head and effectively lost Liverpool the
chance of what would have been a two-legged semi-final
against neighbours Everton.
The striker had already seen his frustration at spurning
Liverpool’s clearest opening of the match amplified by the
fortuitous manner in which Chelsea went ahead just minutes
later. It was that kind of evening for Benitez’s side, once
more left to curse poor finishing, Petr Cech’s goalkeeping
prowess and the ill luck that has dogged them at Stamford
Bridge in recent years.
Since losing 2-0 to Middlesbrough in the first leg of the
semi-final in 1998, Liverpool had scored in 32 successive
League Cup ties going into last night’s game. However, the
Anfield outfit had failed to score in six previous visits to
Chelsea under Benitez. One of those records had to give;
sadly for Liverpool, it was the latter.
But while Liverpool’s most recent defeats to Reading and
Manchester United have prompted lengthy post-mortems, this
third loss in four games should not.
The Carling Cup has long been bottom of the list of
priorities for Benitez, and the Spaniard continued with his
policy of giving his fringe players a first-team opportunity
as only Jamie Carragher and Alvaro Arbeloa survived from
those that started against United on Sunday.
That didn’t sit well with some pundits when the team sheet
was handed out before kick-off, Sky TV in particular
incandescent the Liverpool manager should, in their view,
treat the League Cup with such contempt. Lately, it seems
Benitez is damned if he does or damned if he doesn’t. Had
the likes of Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano and Sami
Hyypia been selected, the Spaniard would have been
criticised for overworking his players ahead of a busy
festive Premier League schedule.
Yet by making the league the priority – the one competition
by which Benitez continues to be judged by his doubters –
the manager was once more ridiculed. Why? After all, lifting
the Carling Cup in February would convince nobody that
Liverpool are any nearer to threatening the domestic
dominance of Manchester United and last night’s opponents.
Chelsea were without injured duo John Terry and Didier
Drogba but, while resting a handful of first-team regulars,
manager Avram Grant selected by far the stronger line-up,
winger Scott Sinclair the only lesser-known name. However,
the home team were unimpressive and unconvincing in victory
and could easily come unstuck in the last four.
With many travelling supporters delayed by a serious
accident on the M40 earlier in the day, the away end was
dotted with empty seats at kick-off despite Liverpool
selling out their 6,000 allocation.
The demands of live television meant the game began on
schedule regardless, although there was a more light-hearted
delay when a referee’s assistant pulled a hamstring seconds
before the start.
When proceedings did begin, Liverpool weren’t helped by
referee Atkinson’s tendency to award a free-kick against
every challenge by a visiting player. It was something that
would prove influential later on.
But Benitez’s much-changed side acquitted themselves
confidently during a first half they could claim to have
The return of Xabi Alonso after, an aborted 68-minute
appearance against Arsenal in October apart, more than three
months out with metatarsal problems brought composure and
direction to a midfield in which Lucas once again shone.
The Brazilian’s tenacity created the first opening in the
ninth minute, dispossessing Michael Essien before feeding
Crouch who pulled his shot horribly across the face of goal.
Soon after, Ryan Babel dithered before finding Wayne Bridge
with his final ball after a forceful run down the left had
taken him past Mikel.
In between, Charles Itandje – deputising for Pepe Reina in
the Liverpool goal – turned a near-post Salomon Kalou shot
around after Shevchenko had stepped over Julian Belletti’s
cutback from the right.
And Chelsea then twice came close midway through the half.
Kalou failed to gain enough purchase on his header from
Lampard’s corner before, after Jack Hobbs gifted possession
to Kalou, the ball broke kindly off Alvaro Arbeloa to put
Lampard clear but Itandje blocked the home skipper’s shot
with his chest. But Liverpool should have gone ahead on 26
minutes. Intricate play around the Chelsea area between
Lucas, Andriy Voronin and Crouch ended with the latter
playing Lucas in, but the Brazilian opted to fire across
goal and give Cech the chance to produce a fine parry.
Alonso fired a low volley wide and Voronin dragged similarly
off target as the visitors ended the half the brighter. But
Itandje was forced into the first save after the interval,
springing to his right to palm behind Essien’s shot with the
ball having broken to the Ghanaian after Carragher halted
Sinclair’s dangerous run. Then came the five-minute spell
that settled the outcome. A poor header back to Cech by
Ricardo Carvalho gave Crouch a chance but the striker’s
attempted lob was just within reach of the Chelsea keeper,
whose touch allowed retreating defenders to clear.
At the other end, Kalou curled an effort over from a good
position before the home side took the lead in traditionally
fortunate fashion on 59 minutes when Lampard’s drive
deflected off Carragher and looped over the helpless
Itandje. It was unfair on Carragher, easily the game’s
stellar performer and whose disgruntlement was made patently
obvious on television replays.
And Liverpool’s hopes diminished a minute later with the
sending-off of Crouch. The striker, unhappy at referee
Atkinson’s failure to penalise Mikel for a foul, launched
into the Chelsea man with an unwise two-footed challenge and
was instantly dismissed.
To their credit, the 10 men kept pressing forward.
Substitute Nabil El Zhar, scorer of a screamer in the
previous round against Cardiff City, screwed a shot wide and
Voronin struck a shot that was deflected wide for a goal
But Liverpool’s fate was sealed in the last minute when the
previously ineffective Shevchenko fired through Itandje at
the near post.
Rafa defends Crouch challenge
By Lewis Rutledge - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez felt Peter Crouch should have
been better protected by the referee following Liverpool's
Carling Cup defeat to Chelsea.
The striker was sent off for a two-footed challenge on John
Obi Mikel moments after Frank Lampard had put Chelsea ahead.
Liverpool struggled with ten men and Benitez admits the game
was lost when Crouch was given his marching orders.
However, Benitez believes Crouch was provoked by Mikel and
has criticised referee Martin Atkinson for not dealing with
the situation sooner.
"The big decision was the sending off of Crouch because two
times before he (Mikel) tried to kick him and if you protect
Crouch you avoid the red card," Benitez told Sky Sports
"When you have a player behind you kicking you twice
sometimes you lose your head.
"It finished the game. Playing against a good team when you
are 1-0 down is difficult."
Benitez made nine changes from the side that lost to
Manchester United at the weekend but he was happy with the
way Liverpool competed.
He said: "The performance of the team was very good. They
played good football and created chances."
Benitez is still confident Liverpool can go on to enjoy a
He added: "We need to think about the FA Cup, the Premier
League and the Champions League."
Crouch sees red
as Blues march on
Chelsea took the remaining Carling Cup
semi-final spot after Frank Lampard's deflected goal set up
a 2-0 win over 10-man Liverpool.
Lampard's deflected 59th-minute opener was followed, seconds
later, by a moment of madness from Peter Crouch who was
red-carded for a disgraceful two-footed lunge on John Obi
Referee Martin Atkinson immediately dismissed the England
striker who unleashed a four-letter tirade at Chelsea fans
before disappearing down the tunnel.
Crouch will now miss Liverpool's home clash with Portsmouth
and the visits to Derby and Manchester City over the festive
The Carling Cup has never been high on Rafael Benitez's
hit-list and he underlined that by putting out a side which
did not contain England midfielder Steven Gerrard and
Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
Gerrard, laid low with a stomach complaint, was certainly
missed by the Merseysiders - who showed little drive in a
goalless opening half largely controlled by the home side.
But Chelsea's failure to break the deadlock was largely due
to the agility of Liverpool's reserve goalkeeper Charles
In the 11th minute he denied Ivory Coast striker Salomon
Kalou when Andriy Shevchenko's low cross had invited him to
try his luck from just inside the penalty area.
However, the Liverpool goalkeeper had to rely on his
shoulder to prevent Lampard scoring in the 24th minute.
Alvaro Arbeloa's attempted clearance fell to Lampard's feet
on the edge of the penalty area but the England man could
not finish the job.
A minute later Chelsea had to rely on Petr Cech, playing his
first game in the competition this season, when a move
involving Andriy Voronin and Crouch set up Lucas.
The Czech keeper, at fault for Arsenal's winner in the
Premier League on Sunday, produced a fine diving save to
deny the Liverpool midfielder.
But they were the only real highlights in a first half
littered with poor passes and choked by a packed midfield.
Chelsea continued to look the more likely to score but
Lampard was still finding his range when he sent a 20-yard
shot high into the crowd in the 52nd minute.
Less than 60 seconds later, Itandje denied Michael Essien,
back from his three-match suspension, with a flying
one-handed save as the Ghanaian's 18-yard effort looked
destined for the corner.
Liverpool's attacks were sporadic at best but they were
almost gifted a goal in the 55th minute when Chelsea
defender Ricardo Carvalho, playing his first game since
breaking a small bone in his back against Everton in early
November, failed to reach Cech with a back-header.
The ball fell straight into the path of Crouch but the lanky
striker could not lift the ball over the advancing Chelsea
But four minutes later, Chelsea were in front. Mikel found
Shevchenko with a clever pass and the Ukraine striker put
Lampard in the clear thanks to a neat first touch.
The England midfielder's shot was half-stopped by Jamie
Carragher but the ball ballooned up and over the stranded
Itandje to register Lampard's 99th goal for the club.
But the game erupted in the worst possible way within a
minute when Crouch inexplicably decided to launch himself at
Mikel right in front of the home dugout.
The two-footed lunge was high and dangerous and Atkinson had
no hesitation in dismissing the England striker - to the
fury of Benitez and the player himself.
Mikel was later replaced by Michael Ballack, who was
returning to action for the first time since April.
In the intervening period, the Germany captain underwent two
ankle operations - but he showed no ill-effects as Chelsea
went in search of a second goal.
Indeed, it was Ballack's header down to Shevchenko in the
final minute of normal time which allowed the Ukrainian to
drill an angled shot past Itandje to put Chelsea into the
last four of the competition.