Poulsen hails Reds starlets
Christian Poulsen has praised the
performance of Liverpool's youngsters against Napoli on
The Reds lined up in their latest Europa League encounter
with a relatively inexperienced side, with Roy Hodgson keen
to rest key men for Premier League duty.
That meant Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly and
David Ngog were given opportunities to impress, and they
fared admirably in a hostile environment.
A 0-0 draw in Naples was enough to keep Liverpool top of
Group K, and Danish midfielder Poulsen was delighted with
the spirit on show from the Reds.
"Our young players battled well and you couldn't tell there
was a lot of inexperience out there," he told the club's
"I think they had a really good game and it shows we have a
strong squad at Liverpool.
"Napoli have a lot of good players but I thought we played
cleverly, tried to stick to the gameplan and in the second
half we had one or two good chances to score.
"It was a good draw, because it was a tactical game away
from home and it's very difficult to win there.
"I've played there two or three times in the past (with
Juventus) and never come away with a point so we're
satisfied with this one, especially as we're still top of
"It's a pretty good result and hopefully we can reach the
knockout stages now."
Jonjo Shelvey today admitted he is
hungry for more at Liverpool FC
By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Jonjo Shelvey today admitted he is hungry
for more as he reflected on his “memorable” first start for
The young midfielder rose to the challenge in Stadio San
Paolo last night as he played a key role in the Reds’ 0-0
draw with Napoli.
Liverpool remain top of Group K and are odds-on favourites
to qualify for the Europa League’s knockout stages and
Shelvey hopes that means he will get to another chance to
prove his worth.
He was one of seven changes to the side that had lost 2-0 to
Everton last weekend but, showing no fear, Shelvey caught
the eye throughout and vindicated Hodgson’s decision to
pitch him in.
But while he was thrilled to have helped secure a confidence
boosting result, the 18-year-old has made it clear he does
not want it to be a one-off experience.
“It’s a hostile place to come and you knew that with the way
the crowd were,” said Shelvey. “They were banging on the bus
when we were on the way to the stadium.
“So it was very satisfying to get a result. It’s massive for
everyone at the club. Personally I’m delighted as I’ve been
waiting for my chance to show the Gaffer that I am good
“This is a platform. The next task is to make sure we get
three points on Sunday. The Gaffer told us we played well as
a team and that we deserved the draw.
“You could tell Napoli are a good team by the way they moved
the ball about but we had a game plan and it worked. In many
ways, we were unlucky not to win as we had a few good
Signed from Charlton Athletic in the summer, Shelvey has
been around Liverpool’s squad ever since Hodgson came to the
club and he revealed the manager has been a constant source
“He told me personally to stay confident and keep doing my
best,” said Shelvey. “I want to push on more now and get a
few games under my belt. Hopefully I will get another chance
“I’m not really someone who gets nervous and I have got
faith in my ability. I know I can do a job and I’m desperate
for another go.”
Liverpool’s draw eases some of the pressure that has been
building on Hodgson and he insisted after the game that he
intends to remain at Anfield “for the long haul”.
That has not stopped speculation mounting and Frank
Rijkaard’s agent Perry Overeem has refused to quell the idea
that his client, who quit Galatasary this week, would be
interested in moving to the Premier League.
Overeem cryptically said: “He will return into football that
is for sure. The question is when and where.
“We haven’t been approached by anybody official (at
Liverpool) yet and to me the current coach is still working
with the support of Liverpool. Let us all wait and see what
Dominic King sees the Reds
make their point in Naples
Comments by Dominic King at Stadio San Paolo - Liverpool
Just three weeks ago a European stalemate
was the precursor for Liverpool's lowest ebb in 57 years;
now, perhaps, a similar result might just provide the
launchpad for recovery.
Roy Hodgson may have admitted to taking a gamble with
Liverpool's present to safeguard the club's future by
leaving a number of star names at home but, happily, that
gamble, to some extent, paid off last night in Naples –
never before has a 0-0 draw been so welcome.
Determined, dogged, disciplined and doughty throughout, the
Reds rewarded those supporters who ran a gauntlet of hate to
roar their team to a result that keeps them in control of
Europa League Group K but, more importantly, has given
everyone at Anfield a lift.
Coming on the back of possibly the most stomach-churning
defeat to Everton in two decades, it was widely assumed
Liverpool – without Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Raul
Meireles – would collapse like a deck of cards in Stadio San
A capacity crowd, a young, enthusiastic team and Hodgson's
admission that this was effectively a contest Liverpool
could do without led to predictions that Napoli would
comfortably add their name to the list of those who have
toppled the Reds so far.
Yet, once again, we received a reminder that it is dangerous
to make assumptions in football; silencing Napoli's fans
and, shushing the doubters, Hodgson, for the moment at
least, can feel a sense of satisfaction and relief.
There is nothing clever about the design of this stadium –
it is just one cavernous bowl – but it is incredibly
atmospheric and, to confirm how a big deal this game was for
the locals, it was just over half full 90 minutes before
Predictably, Hodgson's makeshift side emerged to a wall of
sound when the time came for proceedings to get under way
and, for some of the younger members of the travelling party
this was clearly going to provide a big test of their
credentials and capabilities.
One novice who found himself thrust into centre stage
following Hodgson's decision to leave his big guns at home
was Jonjo Shelvey; who was one of seven changes to the team
that had suffered the ignominy of being brushed to one side
at Goodison Park.
Many, if we are honest, expected things to continue in the
same vein as against Everton but the opening half hour was
relatively stress free for Hodgson, as his players had the
best of the possession and frustrated opponents who seemed
in awe of their reputation.
With a better touch, Ryan Babel would have galloped clear
onto Milan Jovanovic's early through ball while only a
desperate sliding tackle from Paolo Cannavaro prevented
Shelvey – who was outstanding throughout – from skipping on
to another pass from the Serbian international.
So puzzling. Here were Hodgson's men dealing with the
biggest test they have faced in the past month with the
minimum of fuss, keeping their shape and holding a solid
line and not batting an eyelid as the volume in the stands
was ratcheted up.
Christian Poulsen – a figure of derision since his arrival
from Juventus – controlled the tempo, taking possession,
giving it simply, while flying into tackles and
interceptions; Jovanovic and Babel, meanwhile, constantly
looked to cause menace from the flanks.
The longer the game went on, the more you got the impression
that Napoli's reputation did not have great substance and
Pepe Reina had arguably his quietest 45 minutes of the
season in the opening period, as the home side struggled to
deal with the occasion.
Then again, he had Paul Konchesky to thank for the fact
Liverpool went into the break all square, the left-back
kicking Marek Hamsik's shot off the line after Edinson
Cavani's cross-cum-shot had squirmed through a penalty area
It would have been exceptionally harsh on Liverpool had the
fallen behind at that juncture and, as he strode back to the
sanctuary of the away dressing room, Hodgson's thoughts
would surely have been taken with the fact the contest was
there for the winning.
His players, evidently, felt the same way. Poulsen's first
act on re-emerging was to clap his hands repeatedly
together, imploring those around him to believe in
themselves and to be brave in their pursuit of a result to
change the atmosphere surrounding the club.
Perhaps it was due to the fact he was playing against
familiar opponents at a familiar ground but it was
impossible to dispute that this was Poulsen's most effective
match to date in a Red shirt, a performance which showed why
Hodgson was so keen to sign him.
While the rat-a-tat-tat pace of the domestic game might
leave the Denmark international's head in a spin at the
moment, this run out will have gone some way to restoring
confidence levels that must surely have plummeted of late.
But couldn't you say the same about the team? Watching
Liverpool for much of this campaign has been torturous, a
harrowing experience seeing the team in Red stumble from one
catastrophic result to another.
Here, however, was them battling gamely to restore a sense
of pride and had Babel a ounce more conviction when
Jovanovic – another who could say he finally showed a
glimpse of his real form – put him through, Liverpool should
have taken the lead on 70 minutes.
Those sentiments were repeated shortly after when the ball
fell to David Ngog but, frustratingly, he could not get his
shot away quick enough to pass Salvatore Aronica, who made a
block to keep Napoli in the game.
No matter. A late goal would have been the icing on this
cake but at least Liverpool travelled back home in the early
hours content that they had rediscovered their fighting
spirit – now it would be helpful if they followed up by
dismantling Blackburn. Time to push on.
Hodgson: I am not
resigning and I never will
By David Maddock - Daily Mirror
Liverpool relieved the pressure on their
under-fire boss Roy Hodgson with a battling display in
Naples last night.
And after watching with pride a committed performance from
his young side to take an important Europa League point
against Napoli, the Reds manager show fight of his own by
insisting he would never consider quitting.
Hodgson has been swamped with rumours that he will walk out
of Anfield because of the intense pressure produced by a
poor start to the season, which has seen Liverpool slump
into the bottom three.
There have even been suggestions that top Dutch coach Frank
Rijkaard has been lined up as a replacement should the
experienced coach decide he has had enough.
But Hodgson showed the same fight as his team when he
emphatically dismissed suggestions he would quit, when he
"I have heard the ridiculous rumours about me resigning, and
I can tell you there is not an iota of truth in any of them.
"The simple truth is that I have never considered resigning,
and I never will."
Liverpool maintained their unbeaten run in Europe this
season with a confident display, even though the absence of
rested stars like Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres meant
he fielded a youthful, inexperienced team.
Teenager Jonjo Shelvey made his first start for the club and
impressed, and Hodgson insisted that his team showed the
fight that suggests they are far from dead and buried
despite their lowly league position.
And the Reds manager also argued that his side will now go
into Sunday's must-win showdown with Blackburn at the
weekend with the required confidence.
"We have shown tonight that we are far from dead as club
coming here and doing this," he said.
"We have been going through a very bad passage. Things have
not been going our way for a variety of reasons. We find
ourselves at the bottom and we have to get away from there
as quickly as possible.
"We have to feel we can start things going we can get things
right and Sunday offers the perfect opportunity to do this.
"I know the players will be chomping at the bit ready to run
and fight and give everything and I hope we get that little
bit of luck to get the result that helps us kick on.
"The good thing is that I haven't prejudiced that game by
requiring players to play three games in a week, which could
have compromise the intensity we will require for that game.
We will go into it in much better shape now."
Hodgson was also at pains last night to praise the 1,000
strong travelling group of Liverpool fans, who were
subjected to some horrific violence from Napoli ultras.
Six fans were hospitalised, and many were attacked with iron
bars, baseball bats and even clubs with nails, and the Reds
"I was aware what was happening and I was concerned for our
fans. The supporters have been fantastic - they knew they
were coming to a potentially dangerous situation and all I
can say how grateful we are for their support, and
sympathetic we are and concerned at reports that several of
them got attacked.
"We hope the reports are right that we have not had any
serious injuries, and we hope everyone goes home safe and
well. We don't want violence on the pitch or off and it and
certainly not situations where supporters are getting
injured before the game.
"Our fans deserve great credit for the way they have
behaved. I find it faintly amusing when I should be forced
before the game to defend Liverpool supporters against
Italian journalists accusing them of drunken behaviour, when
our peaceful supporters find themselves in hospital after
being attacked by Italian fans".
Hodgson has been under intense pressure in the past
fortnight, with embarrassing defeats at the hands of
Blacpool and Everton adding to the speculation about his
That was heightened this week when Rijkaard, the former
manager of Barcelona, was sacked by Galatasaray, leading to
fresh speculation that he could replace the current
Yesterday, Rijkaard's agent Perry Overeem did little to cool
that speculation when he made clear his client's interest in
any vacant position at Anfield.
"Frank will return into football that is for sure. The
question is when and where and that will not be answered
now," Overeem said.
"It was only on Wednesday that the situation changed at
Galatasaray and we are working on making sure that
everything is sorted out there.
"We haven't been approached by anybody official (at
Liverpool) yet and to me the current coach is still working
with the support of Liverpool. Let us all wait and see what
Hodgson knew his massive gamble last night would have
backfired spectacularly had Liverpool lost in Naples, piling
even more pressure on the result in Sunday's visit to
Anfield of Blackburn.
But the control and confidence his young side showed against
Napoli, even without Gerrard and Torres, will at least give
him hope that he can produce the victory now required to
ease the intense pressure that has been hanging over him.
a point in Naples
Liverpool remain unbeaten in Europa League
Group K after digging deep to earn a deserved 0-0 draw with
hosts Napoli on Thursday night.
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's gamble in leaving at home a
handful of his senior players - including Fernando Torres
and Steven Gerrard - paid off in some respect in the Stadio
Many tipped the hopelessly out-of-form Reds for defeat after
bringing a weakened side to Naples, but they withstood long
spells of pressure to leave with a point.
The closest they came to conceding was in first-half added
time when Paul Konchesky cleared Marek Hamsik's shot off the
line in the nick of time, while Ryan Babel could have
snatched victory with 20 minutes to go but shot too close to
goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis.
Hodgson had admitted in his pre-match press conference that
the Premier League had to take priority because of their
woeful start to the season, with just one win in eight games
leaving them 19th in the table, and that was why he had
rested Torres, Gerrard, Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva.
He said if they lost in Naples he would expect to receive
criticism. He avoided the former but it is unlikely the
latter will dissipate any time soon as even a win over
Blackburn on Sunday will probably not end the growing
murmurings of discontent within Anfield.
At least this performance, unlike the Merseyside derby
defeat last weekend, showed some grit and determination and
keeps Liverpool on course for progress to the knockout phase
as they have taken five points from their three group
matches so far, and still have home games against Utrecht
It is a competition which has so far been much kinder to
Hodgson but, unfortunately for him, if he cannot turn around
the team's domestic form, no number of good performances in
Europe are going to ease the pressure on him.
Getting to the latter stages of the Europa League but still
being stuck in the lower reaches of the Premier League is
unlikely to carry much weight with new owners New England
Sports Ventures, who expect to see more from their
After the previous night's attacks on fans and some limited
patches of trouble prior to kick-off, the atmosphere inside
the stadium was equally as daunting for the players as the
streets of Naples had been for supporters.
However, the visitors did a good job of negating all that
early fervour with a disciplined, solid start and the
whistles which greeted any spell of Liverpool possession
Ezequiel Lavezzi's corner saw Cristian Maggio divert the
ball goalwards only for Edinson Cavani to head it away as he
tried to get a decisive touch.
Napoli were starting to take control but Lavezzi's
long-range strike flew well over Jose Reina's crossbar.
In the 33rd minute Jonjo Shelvey combined with Jay Spearing
but the shot with his weaker left foot was straight at
goalkeeper De Sanctis.
He was obviously not short of confidence as he tried to lob
De Sanctis from the halfway line but hardly extended the
goalkeeper let alone tested him.
But they had a lucky escape in first-half stoppage time with
a controversial incident which will again bring up the issue
of goal-line technology.
Maggio's corner fell to Cavani who beat Jamie Carragher and
fired in a low cross which Hamsik diverted goalwards and it
was unclear whether the ball had crossed the line before
Carragher was replaced for the second half by Sotirios
Kyrgiakos as Napoli seized the initiative again.
Cavani wasted a good chance before Michele Pazienza was
booked for a wild lunge which caught Spearing in the face as
he stooped to head the ball and, after initial concerns
about the midfielder, he was able to continue after
Napoli continued to press but Babel should have snatched the
lead with the best chance of the night when he was played
through by Jovanovic in acres of space on the left of the
The Holland international opted to shoot right-footed across
De Sanctis but placed his effort too close to the
goalkeeper, who saved with his left foot.
Ngog also went close when he turned in the area only for his
shot to be charged down by Salvatore Aronica.