promises a fight to the finish
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
John Arne Riise remains upbeat about Liverpool's
chances of catching Everton, regardless of the ongoing
three-point gap between the Merseyside giants.
The Reds hoped to reduce the deficit after securing an
impressive 2-1 win over Portsmouth last night.
But the result at Goodison Park means Rafa Benitez's
side have it all to do in their last four fixtures.
Riise insists their rivals' form won't demoralise the
Liverpool players as they keep scrapping for every
"We know first and foremost we have to win all our own
"There's no point us worrying about what Everton are
doing," said Riise.
"Obviously we were hoping they'd slip up last night, but
the fact they didn't shows they're a good side and it's
going to go to the very last game of the season if we're
going to catch them.
"I think the last day will decide it. By beating
Manchester United, they're three points above us and
they can end it if they win their game in hand.
"If they do that, there's nothing we can do about it. In
the meantime, we know we've simply got to win every
match. There's no chance of us giving up.
"The main thing is we've come down here and shown the
commitment and quality we need. We never stopped
attacking or sat on the lead. We kept on going forward,
looking for more goals."
Riise created Liverpool's two goals at Fratton Park, but
he's in no doubt who's made the difference to the
standard of the team's football in recent weeks.
"We're keeping the ball much better than we did without
Xabi Alonso," said Riise. "He has the ability to get the
ball and switch play so quickly. Since he's come back
in, he's been brilliant. I love playing with him because
he sees the pass immediately and will ping it to you.
It's a pleasure to play with someone like that."
Steven Gerrard was rested last night to preserve his
groin problem ahead of the trips to Crystal Palace and
Luis Garcia was also subbed as a precaution after
feeling a tight groin at half time, but hopes to be fit
for the weekend.
Liverpool are using Southampton's training facilities
today and tomorrow before heading to London.
LIVERPOOL: Saturday: Crystal Pal AWAY; April 30:
Middlesbrough HOME; May 8: Arsenal AWAY; May 15: Aston
EVERTON: Saturday (12.30pm): Birmingham City
HOME; April 30: Fulham AWAY; May 7: Newcastle HOME; May
11: Arsenal AWAY; May 15: Bolton AWAY
BOLTON: Saturday: Aston Villa AWAY; April 30:
Chelsea HOME; May 7: Portsmouth AWAY; May 15: Everton
By Peter ORourke - Planet Football/Sky Sports
Portsmouth boss Alain Perrin remains confident his
side will avoid a relegation fight despite their defeat
Pompey missed the chance to climb further away from
trouble after going down 2-1 to The Reds at Fratton
Perrin will now be hoping his side can bounce back
against local rivals Southampton in the South Coast
derby this weekend.
"Now we have a good position and we just want to make a
good game [against Southampton], play well and get three
points," said Perrin.
"We are not worried. We need three or four points.
"We wanted to take points this evening. This was not
possible and we are thinking of the next game.
"It is my first defeat and I am disappointed for the
players as they made a good fight and good spirit.
"At 2-1 in the second half we needed some luck and we
had some chance to score at the end, but we were too
tired to make a good pass.
"We did not have enough to beat Liverpool who are
difficult to beat and they need the points."
happy with win
By Peter ORourke - Planet Football/Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez was happy with Liverpool's performance
in the 2-1 win at Portsmouth.
Goals from Fernando Morientes and Luis Garcia were
enough to give The Reds all three points and move them
back into fifth place in the table.
Benitez felt his side should have won the game more
comfortably after spurning a number of clear chances.
"I think we controlled the game and had five clear
chances to score more," said Benitez.
"We need to score from our opportunities and finish the
Liverpool remain three points behind Everton in the race
for a UEFA Champions League place, but Benitez remains
hopeful of catching them for the coveted fourth place.
"Yeah we have to win and we have done our job and the
next time we will try to win and wait (on Everton's
result)," he added.
"It is more difficult playing in two important
competitions, but we are trying to do it."
Benitez also revealed he left Steven Gerrard on the
bench to give the Reds skipper a rest with the
midfielder not coming on until late on.
"We need to use all the squad as there are a lot of
games in a short time and we cannot use the same players
all the time as they will not be able to run properly,"
Reds pick up Pompey win
By Peter ORourke - Planet Football/Sky Sports
Liverpool boosted their UEFA Champions League hopes
with a 2-1 win at Portsmouth.
Goals from Spanish duo Fernando Morientes and Luis
Garcia were enough to give The Reds a much-needed win
with Diomansy Kamara netting for the hosts to cancel out
Morientes' early opener.
The win lifts Liverpool into fifth place in the table,
while the defeat was Portsmouth's first under Alain
Perrin and means they are still not safe from
The game started in a frenetic fashion with Tresor
Lomana Lua Lua getting through on goal in the very first
minute only to have his run halted by a late offside
Liverpool should have scored in their first noteworthy
attack two minutes later when Milan Baros got on the end
of Xabi Alonso's pass inside the box and shrugged off a
challenge from Arjan de Zeeuw only for Jamie Ashdown to
rush quickly off his line to block his left-footed shot.
A minute later Liverpool broke the deadlock with
Morientes breaking his barren run of form in front of
Riise burst past Matt Taylor down the right and sent
over an inviting cross for Morientes who saw his initial
shot saved by Ashdown, but the Spaniard reacted quickest
to poke home the rebound while on the ground.
Gary O'Neil had a half chance for Portsmouth on seven
minutes when Lua Lua picked him out unmarked inside the
box with a quickly taken corner, but he got his volley
all wrong firing well wide of the target.
Riise tried his luck with an ambitious volley wide on
the left on the quarter hour and was unlucky to see his
effort sail wide of the far post.
Morientes wasted a golden opportunity to double
Liverpool's lead on 26 minutes when Steve Finnan picked
him out unmarked at the back post, but the Spanish
international powered his header over the crossbar.
Portsmouth came close to drawing level on 33 minutes
when O'Neil sent Lua Lua scampering clear on goal with a
clever pass and his lob looked set to end up in the net
only for Jerzy Dudek to get back and palm the ball clear
from under his own crossbar.
The home side did not have to wait long to equalise with
Kamara bundling home a goal a minute later.
Taylor sent over a corner to de Zeeuw who saw his free
header cleared off the line by Finnan, but Kamara was on
hand to scramble the ball past Dudek and into the net.
Portsmouth came close to taking the lead three minutes
before the break when the impressive Lua Lua played
Kamara through on goal, but Dudek stood up big to keep
up his shot with his legs.
Riise missed a great chance to give Liverpool the lead
just before half time when Alonso's pass split the
Portsmouth defence to leave the Norwegian with a clear
sight of goal, but he rushed his shot volleying wide of
Liverpool did restore their lead right on the stroke of
half time when Riise sent over a fine cross into the box
for Luis Garcia to power a superb header past Ashdown
and maintain his rich vein of form.
The visitors came close to netting a third goal three
minutes after the break when Finnan played in Riise and
he saw his shot well saved by the legs of Ashdown.
Seconds later substitute Vladimir Smicer fired a
dangerous shot right across the face of goal as
Liverpool went in search of a third goal.
Baros made space for a shot on 52 minutes, but his shot
went straight at Ashdown and six minutes later Riise
should have done better when he cut inside Aliou Cisse,
but the Norwegian dragged his shot wide of the target.
Portsmouth should have drawn level on the hour mark when
Lua Lua played Taylor in down the left and he sent over
a fine cross to Stone unmarked inside the six yard box,
but the midfielder somehow missed his kick with the goal
at his mercy to let Liverpool off.
The impressive Alonso forced Ashdown into a good save a
minute when he latched onto a ball on the edge of the
box and fired in a powerful left-footed shot which
Ashdown tipped over the crossbar.
Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure and Riise
was unlucky not to score on 75 minutes when he got
through on goal from Sami Hyypia's fine long pass, but
stumbling he could not get his shot on target and the
ball appeared to strike the hand of Dejan Stefanovic
before being cleared.
Portsmouth substitute Patrik Berger came close to
drawing Portsmouth level eight minutes from time when he
picked the ball up on the edge of area and fired in a
left-footed rocket which Dudek acrobatically tipped
round the post.
Ashdown denied Liverpool a third in the final minute
when he brilliantly tipped Alonso's shot over the
crossbar after the Spaniard had been teed-up on the edge
of the box by Smicer.