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
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
"He is calm and confident, but he is still young. This
season he will get a lot more games and do much better
"He is working hard and learning every day and he can handle
the big games, as we have seen these past couple of weeks."
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
"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
"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
"We knew this was one of the most important games of the
season, or even the most important, because we had to
"We'd have missed out on so many big games by not winning
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.
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
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
"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
"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."
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
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
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.