to lead by example
Rafael Benitez has called on Steven Gerrard to shoulder
the responsibility of leading Liverpool to glory despite the
Gerrard, now back in his favoured central midfield role,
could be forgiven for thinking he has proved a point to the
Liverpool boss over where best to utilise his considerable
talents, especially after the England midfielder's goal and
all-round performance helped the Reds clinch top spot in the
Champions League Group C with a 2-0 win over PSV Eindhoven.
Steven Gerrard leading Liverpool
to a comfortable win. (Photo: AFP)
It was Gerrard's best display of a disrupted season, in
which he has been at pains to insist he is prepared to play
in a right-sided midfield role for the good of the team.
But he has rarely missed a chance to state a preference and
was quick to point out after the victory against the Dutch
champions: "It goes without saying that I enjoy playing in
"It's my favourite position and where I like to play."
But now he is back in the role he wants, Benitez will demand
even more from him.
The Spaniard said: "Now it is clear that he must take more
responsibility in midfield with Momo Sissoko and Xabi Alonso
both out injured.
"He must take that responsibility and say 'I'm here, give me
the ball and I will score'.
"Now we hope for all these things from our captain."
Liverpool paid a high price for their group-topping victory
which ensured their best points haul ever at this stage of
Mark Gonzalez will miss at least three weeks with a torn
hamstring while Alonso has a thigh muscle injury and
Jermaine Pennant is struggling with a hamstring strain.
Alonso and Pennant are major doubts for Saturday's home
match against Manchester City.
Benitez also has Sissoko out until well into next year with
a dislocated shoulder, so the emphasis is on Gerrard to show
The manager added: "It is clear that we will be without Xabi
and Momo, two very different players to Stevie.
"Now we have Bolo Zenden in midfield, a player who can
maintain his position and pass the ball and support.
"But with Stevie we have a player who can get into the box
and score goals. It is something we must have from our
"Against PSV it was important to see Stevie score another
goal, that was good for him and for the team.
"He played well, but he's a very good player and knows he
can play better. But it is important to see him with
confidence and the team was really happy to see him running
forward and scoring goals.
"We knew PSV had weaknesses in the gaps behind their
defenders, and Stevie is a player who can run powerfully
into those spaces. I was really pleased for him and for the
"It was good for the whole team because we know that if he
plays well then we can win more games."
Gerrard, who has now equalled Ian Rush's record of 14 home
goals in the European Cup, scored only his second of the
season with that outstanding strike against PSV.
He said: "I've been a bit frustrated in front of goal of
late so it was nice to see one go in. But the main thing was
to get the three points and top the group.
"I've been working hard in training, trying to get my form
back. It's not altogether there but I can feel it coming."
Liverpool could yet find themselves drawn against the likes
of Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, Roma, Real Madrid, Porto and
AEK Athens in the last 16.
They cannot face Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea at
this stage but Celtic could come into the equation by the
end of the group matches.
Benitez added: "Now we must concentrate on the Premier
League and to wait to discover who we play next in Europe.
"Being top of the group is important for our own confidence,
but it may not produce any easier tie in the next round.
"But being group winners does mean that we will be at home
for the second leg of the last-16 round, and that is very
important for us.
"Now our form generally is better, we are improving with
every game and all we need now in our league campaign is a
bit more luck."
Gerrard will thrive in middle
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch is backing skipper Steven
Gerrard to hit top form after returning to his goalscoring
ways from central midfield.
England's vice-captain broke the deadlock in last night's
Champions League tie against PSV Eindhoven at Anfield in
typical fashion, bursting into the penalty area to stroke
home Dirk Kuyt's lay-off.
It contrasted sharply with a number of distinctly ordinary
performances from Gerrard playing out of position on the
The 26-year-old seems set for an extended run in the centre
with Mohamed Sissoko out until the new year after surgery on
a dislocated shoulder and Xabi Alonso sustaining a leg
injury against PSV.
And Crouch believes it will inspire Gerrard to score more
"He is a top-class player and it was only a matter of time
before he started scoring goals and he has proved that now,"
said the England striker, who scored a late second in
Wednesday night's 2-0 victory.
"He is the driving force and, I think when he gets forward
like he did last night and gets on the end of things, he is
a class act.
"Certainly, when he is in the middle, he likes to join in
more. When he is out on the right, he can be isolated a
touch but in the middle he likes to get in amongst it and
play off balls from me.
"He is comfortable playing in the middle but he is such a
good player he could play on the right and still be the best
player on the pitch.
"The manager puts him where he sees fit but, obviously, with
Xabi getting injured and Momo being out we haven't got many
[central midfielders] left and I'm sure he will get more
[chances] in his favoured role."
Crouch's goal against the Dutch was his first for almost a
month but took his club tally to nine for the season.
He nodded in from close-range in the dying minutes, having
been set up by Kuyt's header back across goal and the
Holland international believes theirs is a partnership worth
"I think we have scored a lot of goals already so early in
the season," Kuyt said.
"We have done well and the second goal was a great goal
because it was a good understanding with each other.
"Against Reading, we made almost exactly the same goal. It
is good and is getting better and better."
Crouch agreed with his strike partner, saying: "I certainly
enjoy playing with Dirk. He is a good player and likes to
drop off deep and bring others into play and it is a
"Whenever we have played together, we have both scored goals
and it seems to be going well.
"I like to play high up the pitch but I think we did link
well at times against PSV."
Crouch also hopes his goals will help establish him in the
starting line-up, although he accepts competition is tough
and Rafael Benitez's rotation policy makes a permanent berth
"I've shown what I can do - score goals - and given a chance
I'm sure I will," he added.
"We have got strikers here who are willing to take your
place and you have to keep on your toes.
"Hopefully, the goals I have been getting will keep me in
the side. I think it is a good return.
"As a striker, you are hungry to get more and I certainly
won't be resting on my laurels.
"I will be looking to get more goals and hopefully I can do
that before the season is out."
Double Dutch but Kuyt
doing talking on pitch
Champions League Comment by Christopher Beesley - Daily
Liverpool's 2-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven last night was
a tale of two Dutchmen who have enjoyed varying degrees of
fortune at Anfield.
Striker Dirk Kuyt has only been around the place for three
months but already he's done far more for the Liverpool
cause than compatriot Jan Kromkamp, now back home with PSV.
While it might be a sweeping statement about a nation of
some 16million people, it's fair to say that the Dutch like
On the whole, they're well-known as liberal and articulate
people and they're seldom short of an opinion.
While this makes for a good read for all of us - it also
means that their big mouths sometimes get Dutch footballers
into hot water.
That's exactly what happened to a certain Jan Kromkamp this
Despite being virtually anonymous for his entire eight-month
stay at Liverpool, the PSV player was forced to spend the
build-up to this game attempting to backtrack on comments
supposedly claiming that his former side were over-reliant
on long balls up to Peter Crouch.
How particularly choking it must have been for him to see
Crouch nod in Liverpool's killer second goal then.
But no matter how much Kromkamp actually said was true, his
contribution to the Liverpool cause was so unmemorable that
many in the home crowd found it hard to summon up the energy
to boo him on his return with voices of dissent few and far
Instead the Kop reserved its voice for hailing their new
star from the Netherlands, Dirk Kuyt who in contrast to
Kromkamp, was anything but anonymous.
It was Cruyff's Holland team in the 1970s whose play helped
coin the phrase 'total football' but on this occasion it was
Liverpool's own Dutch Master Kuyt who undid his countrymen
by turning from his usual role as goal-taker to goal-maker.
The former Feyenoord striker set up both Liverpool's goals
in splendid fashion, firstly pivoting around Alex to pick
out Steven Gerrard and then setting up Crouch for the
There's been a lot of talk about negativity at Anfield this
week as Liverpool's squad assess their chances for the rest
of the season but Kuyt's enthusiasm is positively infectious
and he continued to show his versatility at the post-match
Press conference, chatting cheerily at length to reporters
in both English and his native tongue.
Like all of his teammates, he's still lacking a few goals
away from Anfield but with Champions League qualification in
the bag, there's now plenty of time to work on that in the
winter months ahead.
For now, Liverpool can concentrate on what they do best and
that's winning at Anfield.
With Manchester City and Portsmouth arriving in the next six
days, there's a golden opportunity to build on this result
with a quickfire six points to help climb the table.
Koeman: Gerrard the difference
By Chris Stanton - Sky Sports
PSV Eindhoven coach Ronald Koeman believed Liverpool's
Steven Gerrard was the difference between the two teams
Gerrard opened the scoring for Liverpool in The Reds' 2-0
victory and Koeman admits his performance was the decisive
factor in the match.
The win ensures Liverpool will top UEFA Champions League
Group C, while PSV were already assured of their own
"The quality of Gerrard was outstanding, it was an excellent
midfield performance and was something we could not match,"
However, Koeman admits his own's side display left
considerable room for improvement.
"We did not do too badly, we did not give away possession
but our build up play from the back let us down," added
"We have dangerous players up front but if we do not get the
ball to them properly, we will not score goals.
"A lot of our play was really sloppy, if you do that you do
not create much up front."
Gerrard: I'm getting closer
Steven Gerrard believes he is closer to his best form after
hitting Liverpool's opener in their 2-0 Champions League win
over PSV Eindhoven.
The Reds captain struck from 18 yards in the second half
before Peter Crouch wrapped up a victory which ensured the
Reds will finish top of
Gerrard told Sky Sports: "I've been a bit frustrated in
front of goal of late so it was nice to see one go in. But
the main thing was to get the three points and top the
"Of late I've been working hard in training, trying to get
my form back. It's not altogether there but I can feel it
Gerrard lined up in central midfield and enjoyed the role
having spent much of the season to date on the right.
"That goes without saying, it's my favourite position and
where I like to play," he added.
"But I've got to do a job for the team - I'm the captain of
Liverpool won the competition two seasons ago and Gerrard
was delighted they will top their group.
But he warned: "It doesn't mean you will automatically get a
"We get the second leg at home now, so that's a big plus."
for Xabi and Speedy
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez admitted Wednesday night
was tainted by injuries to Xabi Alonso, Mark Gonzalez and
The Reds beat PSV Eindhoven 2-0 at Anfield to ensure they
finish top of Champions League Group C, but Benitez saw
three of his midfielders limp out of thr action.
"The first injury to Xabi was a big problem for us, (being
already) without Momo Sissoko especially. Then Mark Gonzalez
and Pennant went too," he told Sky Sports Xtra.
"The players worked really hard after that.
"Xabi had a leg injury which could be serious, Gonzalez felt
something, hamstring maybe, which could be more serious and
Pennant had a spasm which is not serious."
Benitez took heart from Steven Gerrard's strike, which paved
the way for victory.
"I was really pleased to see Steve scoring again, it could
be a boost for his confidence," said Benitez.
"He likes to play there, today it was a difficult game
without Xabi and we needed to see how it went with Bolo
(Zenden) who didn't have a warm-up."
Captain Marvel puts Reds on top
Steven Gerrard led the way as Liverpool clinched top spot
in Champions League Group C with a 2-0 home win over
The England midfielder, restored to his preferred central
midfield role with Mohamed Sissoko sidelined, produced a
goal and leadership which means the match in Istanbul
against Galatasaray will not affect their current standing
at the head of the group.
Liverpool's European campaign has been in sharp contrast to
their domestic league combat, unbeaten after five matches
and heading into the last 16 hoping for decent draw which
will have them dreaming of the quarter-finals.
Gerrard broke the deadlock when he swept onto a Dirk Kuyt
pass, and it was Kuyt who produced the header for Peter
Crouch to nod home the second goal in the dying minutes.
PSV saw a 15-match unbeaten run come to an end, and will now
have to wait to see which of the group winners they will be
paired with in the next stage.
Liverpool's first half was one of frustration and injuries.
They ended that period having seen plenty of possession and
chances but without the cutting edge to go with it.
Worst, though, were the losses of Xabi Alonso and Mark
Alonso was the victim of a fierce tackle from Csaba Feher on
14 minutes, caused really by Gonzalez's loss of the ball and
a frantic lunge by both players for the loose ball.
The former Real Sociedad midfielder limped on for a few
minutes with an obvious ankle problem before making way for
Soon after, Gonzalez was carried off on a stretcher after a
high speed run on the left and cross at full stretch.
That exertion from the Chile winger left him in agony in
front of the Kop, with what was later revealed as a torn
hamstring. Luis Garcia took over.
PSV employed captain Timmy Simons ahead of his back line,
with Edison Mendez and Ibrahim Afellay just ahead of him in
a tight midfield trio.
It left Steven Gerrard, initially Alonso and then Zenden
outnumbered at times - but did not stop the England
midfielder imposing himself on the game.
Gerrard's driving runs and hunting down of opponents - such
a feature of his game - returned as he returned to centre
Early on Kuyt created a chance with a clever touch, before
flicking wide, then Gonzalez headed off target from Jermaine
Zenden saw a 20-yard effort pulled down by Heurelho Gomes
before Steve Finnan crossed for Crouch to head wide.
The hosts were still on top when they took the lead in the
Jose Reina's ball out to Steve Finnan saw an instant pass
forward from the Irish defender into Kuyt's feet.
The Dutchman managed to wriggle into a yard of space before
slipping the ball to Gerrard, who took a couple of strides
before netting his second goal of the season - both have
come in the Champions League.
This should have been the signal for Liverpool to impose
themselves on the game, but PSV fought back, getting more
men forward than at any time in the match.
And it was the defiance of Jamie Carragher and growing
maturity of Daniel Agger which were the key elements now for
Kuyt and Crouch were working hard up front but Pennant's
touch did not improve as the game wore on and his
involvement became almost non-existent.
One run on the right left him down and clutching his face,
before another challenge seconds later saw him carried off
on what was by now an overused stretcher.
Craig Bellamy came on to play on the right, his scampering
pace a welcome addition for the hosts as the clock ticked
Reina needed all his sharp instincts to pull down a fierce,
deflected drive from Arouna Kone, as PSV sought an
But their hopes ended in the 89th minute when Crouch headed
home easily from close range, after Luis Garcia's cross from
the left had been headed back across goal by Kuyt.