After The Match 


Maccabi Haifa-Liverpool 1-1 (0-0)   22.08.06  CL qual. (3r-2leg)
Goals: Crouch (54)           Colautti (63)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Warnock, Pennant, Alonso, Sissoko, Gonzalez, Garcia, Crouch
Subs: Aurelio (Warnock 28), Gerrard (Sissoko 67),
Bellamy (Pennant 86)
Not used: Dudek, Kromkamp, Fowler, Zenden
Yellow: Alonso (30), Hyypia (73), Finnan (90)
Keinan (43), Anderson (44), Meshumar (90)
Red: None
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)
Attendance: 12,500 
Shots on target: 3-6
Shots off target: 1-9
Possession: 50.4-49.6
Fouls conceded: 34-23
Corners: 1-3
Offsides: 7-5
Yellow: 3-3


HEADLINES "We are not
at 100
percent yet..."
    Rafael Benitez

2308: Hyypia expects big things of Agger
2308: Reina: I still need to prove myself
2308: Rafa hit by injury blows
2208: Crouch: Not pretty but we got through
2208: Reds made to work in Kiev battle


Hyypia expects big things of Agger


Sami Hyypia has praised the performance of defensive partner Daniel Agger after Liverpool reached the Champions League group stages on Tuesday.

Veteran defender Hyypia admits he breathed a sigh of relief as the Reds edged out Maccabi Haifa in Kiev.

Hyypia lined up in defence alongside Danish youngster Agger, rather than his dependable partner Jamie Carragher who was sidelined by an ankle injury.

And Hyypia was more than impressed with Agger, who also caught the eye against a Chelsea side boasting an array of striking power - including Andriy Shevchenko - in the Community Shield.

Haifa made life very difficult for Liverpool but, as they were put under intense pressure, Agger never wilted.

Hyypia said: "Getting to the group stages is a relief and we know we are always under pressure and expected to go through to this stage every season.

"The expectation level is always there and that is pressure. But that's what it is like at Liverpool.

"We are happy we have qualified, it is the biggest club competition in the world and we must be in it every year, it is as simple as that."

And Hyypia reckons Agger has got a big future ahead of him playing in such competitions.

He said: "He is a very talented lad, we all saw when he arrived at Liverpool last season that he was a good player, you could see that in training.

"But he was very unlucky to get injured soon after he joined the club and that has held up his progress.

"I am used to playing alongside 'Carra' but when Danny steps in he does well.

"I think he has a big future in the game and he will be a major player for Liverpool in the Champions League for many seasons ahead.

"He is calm and confident, but he is still young. This season he will get a lot more games and do much better accordingly.

"He is working hard and learning every day and he can handle the big games, as we have seen these past couple of weeks."

Reina: I still need to prove myself

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Pepe Reina says he's steeling himself for the true test of his quality this season having helped Liverpool past Maccabi Haifa in the tricky Champions League qualifier.

The Spanish keeper's late save from Roberto Colautti ensured Liverpool claimed a 3-2 aggregate win, securing the 12m jackpot from the group stages.

After a record-breaking start to his Reds career, Reina is determined to prove he's not a one season wonder. He says the second year at a top club is often the most important and he must prove himself once more.

"It's important for me to keep the level of last year," said Reina.

"Maybe I still need to convince all of the people, and as a team we must also keep improving.

"Always the first season is about learning English football and establishing your contact with the Premiership.

"The second is when you show how good or bad you really are.

"This is the season for me to be calm and show I can always play at a high level."

There was relief all round as the Reds overcame the tough Israeli champions, with Reina's services in demand far more than expected during a nervous finale.

"It was a difficult game for us because we played a very good team with very skilful players in attack," he said.

"At Liverpool, the goalkeeper knows he will spend a lot of time without a save to make, and then there will be an important moment when he must show the people what he can do.

"If you only have to stop balls twice in a game, you must do it, so I'm happy with the save at the end, but that's my job.

"We knew this was one of the most important games of the season, or even the most important, because we had to qualify.

"We'd have missed out on so many big games by not winning this one."

Liverpool's players returned to Melwood in the early hours of this morning, where they slept in the newly built residential area of the training complex.

Rafa hit by injury blows

By Tom Adams - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez's injury worries show no sign of subsiding with the Liverpool boss confirming that both Mohamed Sissoko and Stephen Warnock picked up knocks in the UEFA Champions League qualifier against Maccabi Haifa.

The Reds ensured their spot in the group stages in Kiev on Tuesday night but the victory came at a cost with the two players joining a lengthening list of the injured at Anfield.

Warnock, removed after just 28 minutes, is expected to be absent for two weeks with an ankle injury whilst influential midfielder Sissoko could be out for up to three weeks due to the knee problem he sustained in the second half.

With John Arne Riise and Jamie Carragher picking up injuries in the opening game of the Premiership season against Sheffield United, and new signing Gabriel Paletta also on the sidelines, Benitez has an under strength squad for the visit of West Ham on Saturday and the Spanish chief is trying to get his head around another fitness setback so early in the season.

"We are in the group stages and I believe we deserve to be so after creating so many chances," said Benitez.

"But it was very disappointing to lose another two players through injury.

"Stephen's is hopefully not too serious but Momo could be out for two or three weeks. We will have to see."

A draw in Kiev was enough for Liverpool to reach the lucrative group stages of the UEFA Champions League, but Benitez has pledged that his side will improve after a tricky start to the season that also saw them draw with Neil Warnock's Blades at the weekend.

"We are not at 100 percent yet, I know that," Benitez added.

"It has been a difficult preparation for this season with so many of the players returning at different times from the World Cup.

"When we have got over this game with West Ham and then the two-week international break you will see a side improving and progressing together and ready to take on the really big teams in the Champions League.

"You will see a much better team then."

Crouch: Not pretty but we got through


Peter Crouch admitted Liverpool had to dig deep against Maccabi Haifa after the second leg of their Champions League qualifier ended 1-1.

Leading 2-1 from the first leg at Anfield, Crouch scored early in the second half and Liverpool held on despite Roberto Colautti pulling a goal back.

Crouch said: "It was a difficult game, they were no mugs at all, they proved that. It's not the prettiest of wins but it's got us through."

Crouch will have Dirk Kuyt as competition when the group stages of the Champions League gets underway, but he is enjoying a run in the team with wingers Mark Gonzalez and Jermaine Pennant providing the crosses.

"It's good for someone like myself to have two wingers and it's a case of getting in the box," he added. "There's going to be competition at a big club, hopefully I can thrive on that."

Reds made to work in Kiev battle

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Liverpool made it into the group stages of the UEFA Champions League with a slender 3-2 aggregate victory over Maccabi Haifa after a 1-1 draw in Kiev, although they were made to sweat in a nervy ending.

Liverpool were the main aggressors throughout and took the lead early in the second half when Peter Crouch nodded in a Jermaine Pennant cross and the 2005 European Champions looked to be cruising at 3-1 up on aggregate.

However, Roberto Colautti drew Maccabi level on the night just after the hour mark and, after offering little until then, the Israeli side then sprung into action and Liverpool had to hold on in the nervous closing stages as the clock ticked down to a place in the group stages.

The victory also came at a price as Liverpool's early season injury problems struck again as both Stephen Warnock and Mohamed Sissoko went off injured.

Despite Rafa Benitez making eight changes to the starting line-up, including Steven Gerrard starting from the bench due to a stomach bug, Liverpool settled relatively quickly and created the bulk of the chances in the first half.

Crouch sliced a snapshot wide from a good position inside the box ten minutes in, while Xabi Alonso curled a super effort just inches past the post three minutes later with Nir Davidovitch well beaten.

Davidovitch produced an instinctive block on 15 minutes when Crouch supplied Luis Garcia with a neat cut-back, allowing the Spaniard to fire first-time on goal.

Haifa could have taken the lead in the 21st minute though as Liverpool survived an almighty scare as Alain Masudi nodded in after a goal-line scramble. Gustavo Boccoli flicked on Yaniv Katan's right wing free kick but Xavier Anderson was just offside at the far post as he headed back in before Masudi nodded home.

After the let-off, Liverpool returned to the offensive but Garcia was finding Davidovitch hard to beat in the Haifa goal as he twice went close.

A firm low shot was well saved by the keeper after a great ball into the box from Alonso, while Davidovitch flew off his line to parry Garcia's header after he was found by a Crouch knockdown from a corner.

In between Liverpool suffered another injury as Warnock became their third ankle injury victim in two games as he had to be replaced by Fabio Aurelio.

Liverpool started the second period brightly and went ahead on the night when Pennant beat his man and got to the byline for the first time, and he crossed for Crouch who got in front of his marker to head home at the near post.

Mark Gonzalez could have widened the gap six minutes later when he smashed into the side netting after good link-up play by Garcia.

Just two minutes later and Haifa pulled a lifeline out of nowhere when Anderson danced through the Liverpool rearguard and, when his shot was well saved by Pepe Reina the rebound was tapped in by Colautti for 1-1 on the night and a 3-2 aggregate score.

Liverpool's injury problems struck again just after the hour when the impressive Sissoko had to be carried off with a knee injury in what was a fourth injury in two games for The Reds - and stricken skipper Gerrard had to get off his sickbed to help out his side.

With the Israeli outfit now needing just one goal to force extra time, Liverpool begun to feel the pressure and Masudi went close with a volley before Daniel Agger had to clear his lines when Reina was beaten to the ball by Boccoli.

Gerrard was showing no signs of his illness when driving his shot just wide as he looked to power his side through, but Reina had to be at his very best moments later to turn over Colautti's fine curling effort.

Haifa finally showed some desire to get forward as they searched for the crucial goal but in the end Liverpool hung on despite a nervy ending to book their spot in the group stages with a 3-2 win on aggregate.

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Thor Zakariassen